Cancer Research

Research Overview

Cancer is a complex group of related diseases characterized by rapid and uncontrolled cell growth that can spread (metastasize) to other organs or tissues. According to the World Health Organization, cancer is the leading cause of death in the world and was responsible for an estimated 8.8 million deaths in 2015.

Scientists at CRI are expanding our understanding of cancer and working to find new therapies using four different approaches.

  • Stem cells – Many cancers arise from the inappropriate activation of the self-renewal mechanisms that stem cells rely on for normal development. By comparing the processes by which stem cells and cancer cells replicate, we can improve our understanding of these mechanisms and learn to inhibit them to develop anticancer therapies.
  • Metabolic pathways – Proper control of metabolism is required for essentially every basic biological process. Cancer cells use reprogrammed metabolic pathways to grow and spread. Finding and understanding how these growth-promoting metabolic activities occur in cancer is a key step toward developing new drugs and treatments to selectively inhibit cancer growth.
  • Epigenetic pathways – Epigenetic alterations, which are inheritable changes in gene function that do not change our genetic information, are common in human cancers. By studying how cancer-associated epigenetic machinery control normal stem cell development, we can better understand how dysregulated epigenetic activities lead to cancer development and discover new clues to develop therapeutics.
  • Regenerative capacity of cells – The link between cancer and organ regeneration is not well understood. Many cancers develop as a consequence of chronic injury, but we do not know if a strong regenerative capacity protects or promotes tumor formation. By identifying the genes and mechanisms that regulate regenerative capacity, we can increase our understanding of how these contribute to cancer and find new treatment methods.

CRI scientists are studying several types of cancer. Learn more about their research.


Research Faculty

Agathocleous Lab


Michalis Agathocleous, Sstem cell metabolomics researcher

Deberardinis Lab


Ralph DeBerardinis, cancer metabolism research

Hoxhaj Lab


Gerta Hoxhaj, cellular metabolism researcher

McBrayer Lab


Sam McBrayer, glioma research

Morrison Lab


Sean Morrison, stem cell research

Ohlstein Lab


Ben Ohlstein, Stem Cell Niches,

Xu Lab


Jian Xu, blood cell development research

Zhu Lab


Hao Zhu, Liver cancer research