Our Research

Our lab is dedicated to deciphering and tackling the mind-blowing complexity of cancer to more accurately predict patient prognosis and guide selection of most optimal therapies that are directed towards cancer-specific vulnerabilities and the specific biomarker profiles of individual patients. Our translational investigations address three key areas of focus, as described herein.

Getting Personal

Cancer cells harbor biomarkers that distinguish them from normal cells, betray the tumor’s inherent “aggressiveness” and reveal the tumor’s susceptibility to different therapies. Clinicians today direly need tools to help them decipher patients’ unique molecular landscapes and biomarker profiles so that they can personalize treatment for each patient and improve clinical outcomes.

With this in mind, we are pioneering research into tumor biomarkers that serve as beacons of the risk inherent in a tumor and provide clues related to which drugs the tumor may succumb to. We are also interested in the intersection between tumor subtypes, tumor biology and ethnicity, as this may reveal hitherto overlooked factors that contribute to risk of developing metastases, or uncover novel therapeutic targets. Our research efforts are focused on two main lines of inquiry:

Decrypting Cancer’s Code: The next generation

Risky Business: Risk assessment and modeling

Kinder, Gentler Chemotherapy: Centrosome Cluster Busters

Utilizing chemical genetic approaches and state-of-the-art technology, we are identifying cancer-specific drug targets for chemoprevention and chemotherapy. Our research strategies draw from a broad base including synthetic medicinal chemistry, molecular and cellular biology to gain insights about drug targets and mechanisms, and animal models to study the kinetics of tumor growth and inhibition and drug pharmacokinetic profiles.

Our team has extensively studied a family of anticancer agents called noscapinoids, which are derivatives of the plant-derived alkaloid noscapine. Noscapine subtly modulates microtubule dynamicity, so it is non-toxic. Our lab has rationally designed and characterized the biological activities of several noscapinoids with enhanced anticancer efficacy that maintain safety profiles similar to that of the parent compound.

We have also studied anticancer agents called centrosome declustering drugs, of which several noscapinoids are members. In contrast with normal tissues, cancer cells often harbor excess centrosomes, which impart aggressive phenotypes like chromosomal instability and augmented migratory capacity and invasiveness. Centrosome declustering drugs disperse these centrosomes and cause cell death during mitosis. Normal cells do not have supernumerary centrosomes and are unaffected by these drugs, making this a highly selective chemotherapeutic strategy.

Mother Nature Knows Best: Exploiting the prowess of plant phytochemicals

Another approach under exploration to avoid the harsh effects of current therapeutic modalities relies on dietary phytochemicals abundant in fruits and vegetables.

Healing with Whole Foods

Pharmacokinetics and Herb-Drug Interactions

Did You Know?

For all cancers combined, African Americans have a 25% increased risk of death compared with European Americans.