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Venu Raman Research Lab
The Raman laboratory is within the Division of Cancer Imaging Research in the Department of Radiology and Radiological Science. The focus of the laboratory is bench-to-bed side cancer research. We integrate molecular and cellular biology, developmental biology, cancer biology, molecular imaging techniques to study cancer formation and progression. Many of the projects in the lab investigate dysregulated genes in cancer and the translatability of this information to a clinical setting. One such project is to functionally decipher the role of a RNA helicase gene, DDX3, in the biogenesis of multiple cancer types such as breast, lung, brain, sarcoma, colorectal and prostate. Additionally, using a rational drug design approach, a small molecule inhibitor of DDX3 (RK-33) was synthesized and its potential for clinical translation is being investigated.
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed malignancy in men in the United States, although our understanding of the molecular basis for this disease remains incomplete. We are interested in characterizing consistent alterations in the structure and expression of the genome of human prostate cancer cells as a means of identifying genes critical in the pathways of prostatic carcinogenesis.
We are focusing on somatic genomic alterations occurring in sporadic prostate cancers, as well as germline variations which confer increases in prostate cancer risk. Both genome wide and candidate gene approaches are being pursued, and cancer associated changes in gene expression analyses of normal and malignant prostate cells are being cataloged as a complementary approach in these efforts.
It is anticipated that this work will assist in providing more effective methodologies to identify men at high risk for this disease, in general, and in particular, to identify new markers of prognostic... and therapeutic significance that could lead to more effective management of this common disease. view more
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 less
Dr. Bhujwalla’s lab promotes preclinical and clinical multimodal imaging applications to understand and effectively treat cancer. The lab’s work is dedicated to the applications of molecular imaging to understand cancer and the tumor environment. Significant research contributions include 1) developing ‘theranostic agents’ for image-guided targeting of cancer, including effective delivery of siRNA in combination with a prodrug enzyme 2) understanding the role of inflammation and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) in cancer using molecular and functional imaging 3) developing noninvasive imaging techniques to detect COX-2 expressing in tumors 4) understanding the role of hypoxia and choline pathways to reduce the stem-like breast cancer cell burden in tumors 5) using molecular and functional imaging to understand the role of the tumor microenvironment including the extracellular matrix, hypoxia, vascularization, and choline phospholipid metabolism in prostate and breast cancer invasion and metast...asis, with the ultimate goal of preventing cancer metastasis and 6) molecular and functional imaging characterization of cancer-induced cachexia to understand the cachexia-cascade and identify novel targets in the treatment of this condition. view more