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The Allen Lab focuses on immunologic aspects of cancer development and progression, with a focus on head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, the most common form of head and neck cancer. Work also aims to translate key knowledge learned from our investigation into anti-tumor immunity to other diseases in otolaryngology, including inflammatory and infectious disorders.
Daria Gaykalova Lab
The Daria Gakalova Lab defines the functional role of epigenetics in transcriptional regulation of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) progression. To evaluate the whole-genome distribution of various histone marks, her team is using chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by massively parallel DNA sequencing (ChIP-Seq) for primary tissues, a method recently developed by her lab. The research group of Daria Gaykalova was the first to demonstrate the cancer-specific distribution of H3K4me3 and H3K27ac marks and their role in cancer-related gene expression in HNSCC. The research showed that an aberrant chromatin alteration is a central event in carcinogenesis and that the therapeutic control of chromatin structure can prevent the primary of secondary cancerization. Further preliminary data suggest that the differential enrichment of these disease-specific histone marks and DNA methylation correlate with alternative splicing events (ASE) formation. For this project, Dr. Gaykalova... and her team employed a novel bioinformatical tool for the detection of cancer-specific ASEs. Through thorough functional validation of the individual ASEs, the lab demonstrated that each of them has a unique mechanism of malignant transformation of the cells. Due to high disease specificity, ASEs represent the perfect biomarkers of the neoantigens and have direct application to clinical practice. view more
Head and Neck Cancer Clinical Trials and Tissue Bank
The Johns Hopkins Head and Neck Cancer Tissue Bank enrolls patients and collects research specimens from Head and Neck Tumor patients, both cancerous and benign, with particular focus on Head and Neck Squamous Cell Cancer patients. It provides specimens to researchers both within the institution and outside.
James Hamilton Lab
The main research interests of the James Hamilton Lab are the molecular pathogenesis of hepatocellular carcinoma and the development of molecular markers to help diagnose and manage cancer of the liver. In addition, we are investigating biomarkers for early diagnosis, prognosis and response to various treatment modalities. Results of this study will provide a molecular classification of HCC and allow us to identify targets for chemoprevention and treatment. Specifically, we extract genomic DNA and total RNA from liver tissues and use this genetic material for methylation-specific PCR (MSP), cDNA microarray, microRNA microarray and genomic DNA methylation array experiments.
Liliana Florea Lab
Research in the Liliana Florea Lab applies computational techniques toward modeling and problem solving in biology and genetic medicine. We work to develop computational methods for analyzing large-scale sequencing data to help characterize molecular mechanisms of diseases. The specific application areas of our research include genome analysis and comparison, cDNA-to-genome alignment, gene and alternative splicing annotation, RNA editing, microbial comparative genomics, miRNA genomics and computational vaccine design. Our most recent studies seek to achieve accurate and efficient RNA-seq correction and explore the role of HCV viral miRNA in hepatocellular carcinoma.
The long-term objectives of our research team are:
a. to understand the molecular etiology in the development of human cancer, and
b. to identify and characterize cancer molecules for cancer detection, diagnosis, and therapy.
We use ovarian carcinoma as a disease model because it is one of the most aggressive neoplastic diseases in women. For the first research direction, we aim to identify and characterize the molecular alterations during initiation and progression of ovarian carcinomas.
Nicole Schmitt Lab
The Nicole Schmitt lab focuses on the mechanisms by which platinum-based chemotherapy works for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Current interests include immune and inflammatory mechanisms of cisplatin, and how these mechanisms are altered by the addition of radiotherapy and/or immunotherapy. Preclinical work is underway to help determine the best way to combine standard platinum-based chemoradiation therapy with immunotherapies and targeted therapies in clinical trials.
Normal and neoplastic cells respond to genome integrity threats in a variety of different ways. Furthermore, the nature of these responses are critical both for cancer pathogenesis and for cancer treatment. DNA damaging agents activate several signal transduction pathways in damaged cells which trigger cell fate decisions such as proliferation, genomic repair, differentiation, and cell death. For normal cells, failure of a DNA damaging agent (i.e., a carcinogen) to activate processes culminating in DNA repair or in cell death might promote neoplastic transformation. For cancer cells, failure of a DNA damaging agent (i.e., an antineoplastic drug) to promote differentiation or cell death might undermine cancer treatment.
Our laboratory has discovered the most common known somatic genome alteration in human prostatic carcinoma cells. The DNA lesion, hypermethylation of deoxycytidine nucleotides in the promoter of a carcinogen-defense enzyme gene, appears to result in inactivation of th...e gene and a resultant increased vulnerability of prostatic cells to carcinogens.
Studies underway in the laboratory have been directed at characterizing the genomic abnormality further, and at developing methods to restore expression of epigenetically silenced genes and/or to augment expression of other carcinogen-defense enzymes in prostate cells as prostate cancer prevention strategies.
Another major interest pursued in the laboratory is the role of chronic or recurrent inflammation as a cause of prostate cancer. Genetic studies of familial prostate cancer have identified defects in genes regulating host inflammatory responses to infections.
A newly described prostate lesion, proliferative inflammatory atrophy (PIA), appears to be an early prostate cancer precursor. Current experimental approaches feature induction of chronic prostate inflammation in laboratory mice and rats, and monitoring the consequences on the development of PIA and prostate cancer. view more