Cancer Biology Program

The Cancer Biology (CB) Program focuses on the basic cancer research mission of UH Cancer Center, which is to make important scientific discoveries that positively impact cancer incidence and mortality in Hawaiʻi and the larger Pacific. Reflecting on our geographical location, CB has a major emphasis on the research on the natural products from the local, endemic species to discover chemical probes for studying cancer molecular pathways, with the potential for translation into clinical application.

UH Cancer Center Cancer Biology Group
Left to right (back row): Adrian Franke, Marcus Tius, Ping Fan, Vera Schwarzler, Lorenzo Bisgen, Jiaming Xue, Lorenzo Carparelli, Pietro Bertino, Randall Holcombe (middle row): Wen-Ming Chu, Haining Yang, Michelle Matter, Ryuji Yamamoto, Brien Haun, Michael Minaai, Masaki Nasu, Wong Seok Yang, Hideki Furuya, Joe Ramos (front row): Ronghui Xu, Chi Ma, Yasutaka Takinishi, Sandra Pastorino, Jasmine Chen, Keisuke Goto, Natalija Glibetic, James Turkson

To achieve our objectives, CB research is organized into two themes: Cancer Mechanisms (CM) and Targets and Intervention (TI). CM will identify cellular and molecular mechanisms, and inflammatory events, which promote cancer development and progression. Areas of study include DNA damage and repair mechanisms, calcium channel biology, oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes, and metastasis. Other studies focus on the tumor microenvironment and its impact on tumor progression. TI will focus on interrogating critical cancer pathways and molecular targets for novel insights, and translate molecular discoveries into improved predictive and prognostic biomarkers that can be developed as clinical diagnostics for early detection of cancer. We will also develop new chemical probes from the natural products isolated from the local endemic organisms of the land or oceans of Hawaiʻi and the larger Pacific, and synthetic small molecules or antibodies that target the critical cancer pathways as potential preventative and therapeutic modalities for cancer. We will pursue the chemical synthesis of promising natural products and small molecules and improve on the antitumor efficacy of lead agents through medicinal chemistry efforts.

To advance the goals of the program, CB has three specific aims:

1Uncover new mechanistic insights into the development and progression of cancer. Program members employ biochemical, genetic and other methodologies to study and advance knowledge on the molecular and cellular processes of malignant development and progression.

2Identify new targets for interrogation and validation for both mechanistic insights and therapeutic significance. Members utilize diverse genetic and chemical approaches to validate critical cancer targets and pathways for biological and therapeutic significance.

3Translate molecular and chemical probe discoveries into new chemoprevention, therapeutic, and diagnostic modalities. Physicians, physician-scientists, and basic researchers in the program work together to translate basic science discoveries to appropriate cancer patients.