The central interest of our lab is to understand the mechanisms shared by cancer and organ regeneration. Our work is inspired by the clinical problem of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), a malignancy that arises from a highly regenerative organ that experiences recurrent injury.
Though HCC is the third leading cause of cancer death in the world, scientific understanding of HCC is primitive — a fact reflected by our inability to predict outcomes, much less treat advanced cases.
A major gap in our knowledge is how the genetic and epigenetic changes associated with HCC affect liver regeneration prior to tumor formation. We hypothesize that some of these alterations are enhancers of regeneration, and thus might promote the expansion of pre-cancerous populations as a supraphysiologic response to injury. Thus, a goal for our lab is to study liver cancer associated genes in the normal regenerative context.
If we can understand these early steps of cancer development, we may be able to detect and treat cancers before they become incurable.