Cancer is a disease of the genome. Over time, the accumulation of mutations either activating genes that promote cellular growth or inactivating those genes that suppress growth ultimately can lead to cancer. Identifying the essential genes that underlie cancer provides an entry point to understand the biology of cancer and, critically, develop new therapies. We are fortunate today to live in an era where advances in technology allow us to study cancer genomes in ways that would have seen unimaginable just a few years ago. With these great opportunities also come great challenges. We are quickly learning that cancer genomes are incredibly complicated making interpretation of cancer genome alterations and identification of the key genetic mutations in particular tumors a great challenge.
In our laboratory, we bring together expertise in modern genomics, experimental/functional biology and clinical medicine. Our overarching goal is to leverage the study the cancer genome to elucidate key biological processes and therapeutic vulnerabilities in carcinomas arising in the GI tract (especially stomach, esophageal carcinomas). Working closely with the Broad Institute and The Cancer Genome Atlas projects, we are at the forefront of several major initiatives to interrogate the genomes of these cancers where we are working to define the spectrum of alterations and the most likely critical genes in these tumors. We then bring key genes into our functional laboratory to study their contribution to cancer in more depth. In parallel, we are developing systematic approaches to allow us to efficiently evaluate the complex myriad of alterations that exist in these tumors to help us define those which are critically important and should be prioritized for focused follow-up. Last, we are beginning to test in pre-clinical models therapeutic approaches for cancers driven by specific genetic alterations.
We will soon be in an era where genomic profiling of each patient’s tumor will be an integral factor in guiding cancer care. In sum, our laboratory is committed helping to develop a foundation that will enable clinicians and researchers to be able to interpret genome data in real clinical time to positively impact the care of our patients by identifying the genes and pathways likely to be driving each patient’s tumor so we can select targeted and effective therapies for each patient.