Cancer is one of the top five non-communicable diseases claiming millions of lives every year. Despite an astounding advancement in understanding the biology of the disease and imparting care for cancer patients, achieving long-term remission or curing cancer remains elusive. Our research group is dedicated to help in the ongoing battle against this devastating disease.
Research projects (ongoing and emerging)
Mechanisms of drug resistance and drug toxicities: Emergence of resistance to anti-cancer drugs is a common phenomenon. This is one of the most pressing issues hindering long-term disease remission and contributing to patient mortality. One of our primary research goals is to model and identify mechanisms of adaptive resistance for drugs that are used as standard of care for different subtypes of breast cancers. Next, we examine different therapeutic strategies to prevent and/or overcome such resistance. Although, we have primarily been interested in combination treatment with known anti-cancer drugs, we are also looking into repurposing drugs that may or may not have known anti-cancer activities.
Even though, a vast majority of anti-cancer drugs are developed as cancer cell-specific treatments, non-specific side-effects from drugs is quite common, which sometimes leads to life-threatening conditions. We are interested in identifying the mechanisms of toxicities of several drugs that are meant to target only cancer cells, but found to have promiscuous modes of action. Primarily, we check for the ability of a drug to activate oxidative stress response pathway as it the most common mechanism of imparting unwanted toxicity in patients by causing macromolecular damages.
Evolution of drug resistance and adaptive therapies: It is now widely accepted that tumorigenesis and emergence of anti-cancer drug resistance follow principals of Darwinian evolution. Just like a species living in a complex ecosystem, cancer cells may be considered as a species composed of millions to billions of genetically diverse abnormal cells, which sustain, propagate and spread to different parts of the body by communicating with their microenvironment. When challenged with therapies, vulnerable cells in the tumor die, resulting in a competitive release of resistant populations. We are interested in understanding the evolution of acquired drug resistance and testing adaptive therapeutic strategies to prevent such process. In this regard, we are particularly interested in a cellular fate, known as senescence that is thought to be an evolutionary strategy to evade cancer treatment.
Screening of medicinal herbs and supplements using 3-D platforms: Integrative Oncology is an evolving field of cancer research that utilizes diet, food supplements and life style choices for cancer prevention and management. As a result, medicinal herbs and supplements are gaining immense popularity as an alternative to toxic anticancer drugs. One of the emerging interests of our laboratory is to develop a three-dimensional (3-D) cell-based assay system for screening medicinal plants and mushrooms for anti-cancer efficacies. In contrast to commonly used 2-D culture system, the 3-D platform mimics the in vivo situation much more reliably. Once a hit is identified, it can further be validated in mouse models.