The immediate goal of our research is to understand how anticancer drugs kill cancer cells, and more importantly, why they fail so often. Our research has focused on proteins that control discrete steps of programmed cell death, including PUMA, Bax, BID, SMAC, and Mcl-1, which are directly or indirectly regulated by the most frequently mutated or altered tumor suppressors and oncogenes such as p53, APC, c-Myc and KRAS. Through analyses of these cell death regulators and their associated protein networks under the influence of oncogenic mutations and other alterations, we try to gain deep understanding on how cell death is initiated and executed in colon cancer cells, why some colon cancer cells are not sensitive to anticancer drugs, and what can be done to restore their sensitivity. Our long-term goal is to develop novel strategies and agents to improve colon cancer therapy and prevention.
The specific projects in our lab are focused on four areas: (1) understand how cell death regulators modulate therapeutic response; (2) determine how anticancer drugs kill colon cancer cells; (3) delineate the role of cancer stem cell in cancer prevention; and (4) identify novel small molecules to target cell death regulators to improve colon cancer therapy and prevention.