GICI: Genome Integrity and Cancer Initiative
The Genome Integrity and Cancer Initiative (GICI) is composed of three programs: (1) Genome integrity and cancer etiology (Lead- Shan Yan); (2) Cancer-omics and computational modeling (Co- Lead: Jun-tao Guo); (3) Cancer therapeutics and health disparity (Co-Lead: Didier Dréau) as well as STEM education and community engagement and outreach (see the diagram). The GICI will foster genome, omics, and cancer research, to support translational efforts to improve cancer treatment and community health, and promote STEM education and community engagement and outreach activities. The GICI aims (1) to pursue excellence in cancer scholarship and research that address key fundamental cancer genetic, cellular and therapeutic challenges; (2) to pursue excellence in education by leveraging synergies between research and learning across our university community of scholars to offer undergraduate and graduate students both research experiences and innovative teaching; and (3) to promote community engagement and outreach activities in the local greater Charlotte region. Overall, GICI is fully committed to research excellence and scholarship as well as diversity with existing and emerging excellence. GICI is poised to make further strides in cancer research by harnessing the promises of (1) unity of the connecting participants (40 Faculty from 16 Depts/Units in 5 Colleges); (2) targeted individual and cancer (e.g., exercise, diet, genetic) factors; (3) cancer literacy and community awareness through outreach; and (4) strengthen the relationships with other regional, state, and national institutions. GICI will build on cutting-edge cancer research and embrace new pedagogy that fosters innovation in cancer research and education toward a recognized top-tier genome and cancer research center of excellence, through (1) the development and nurturing of a diverse intellectual research team that promotes cancer research investigation using molecular, cell, organism, model and community approaches; (2) the support of multi- and inter-disciplinary research opportunities/applications including those addressing cancer health disparities; and (3) the active participation in transforming STEM education and student involvement in cancer research and addressing cancer challenges at the local and national levels.
Dr. Shan Yan established the Exchange Group Charlotte Biology and Biotechnology with the North Carolina Biotechnology Center to bring the Distinguished Speaker in Genome Integrity Seminar series to campus. Upcoming dates:
- OCTOBER 8, 2021. Jianjun Zhao, PhD, Department of Cancer Biology, Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland Clinic. Cisplatin Upregulates Apurinic/Apyrimidinic Endonuclease 2 (APE2) Binding to Myosin Heavy-Chain 9 (MYH9), Provoking Mitochondrial Fragmentation and Acute Kidney Injury.
- NOVEMBER 5, 2021. Marcus Smolka, PhD, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Cornell University. Boosting and Braking DNA Repair in Cancer.
Genome Integrity and Etiology Group (GIG)
- Genome integrity, DNA repair, and DNA damage response
- DNA/RNA damage and cancer etiology
- Cellular signaling and molecular mechanisms
- Organismal, ecological and environmental analysis of genome integrity
Cancer-omics and computational modeling
With the decreasing costs of the next generation sequencing (NGS) approaches and the advancement of new technologies in the omics arena, a massive amount of cancer omics data have been generated and become available to the research community. For example, The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) has sequenced over 20,000 primary cancer and corresponding normal samples covering 33 cancer types. These big data present a number of great challenges to the downstream analysis for cancer discovery, diagnosis, and treatment: how to efficiently integrate and visualize the data, what are the common and unique signatures or patterns among different cancer types, and how these data inform discovery of better and novel cancer therapeutics. Research areas synergize withthe Bioinformatics Resaerch Center and School of Data Science. Main Areas of Research in Program #2:
- Cancer transcriptomic and metabolomic research
- Data analytics and mathematical modeling
- Data integration and visualization
- Structural bioinformatics and functional studies
Cancer Therapeutics and Health Disparity
Targeted therapies have become the encouraging approaches to prevent cancer progression. However, disparity in tumors sensitivity and patient response and access to such treatments remains a challenge. Through investigations using relevant models including genetically engineered animals, immunocompetent mouse models, 3D cultures, the Cancer Therapeutics and Health Disparity program assesses innovative targeted therapies including immunotherapies, their delivery, diagnostic and monitoring. Moreover, measurement and interventions aim at reducing disparities in cancer treatment and survivorship modeled on efforts that limit diabetes and metabolic disease in the community will be extended to underrepresented cancer patient cohorts. Research areas synergize with the Center for Biomedical Engineering and Science (CBES). Main Areas of Research in Program #3:
- Tumor microenvironment and signaling
- Targeted therapy including immunotherapy
- Nanotechnology and targeted drug delivery
- Cancer disparity, cancer survivorship and community health access
STEM education and community engagement
The benefits of STEM education on the overall learning experience and academic success of undergraduate/graduate students are well documented. The proposed GICI will include the development of course-based research experiences (CUREs) including dissemination of research findings, research internships, and professional development modules. GICI also incorporates multiple STEM education initiatives and professional development programs. GICI faculty are actively engaged in STEM education and outreach with the community through various outreach programs including Discovery Place (public engagement) and HBCUs such as Johnson C. Smith University and NC A&T University (recruitment of graduate students). STEM education and community engagement activities developed by GICI are critical for establishing a large, diverse talent pool to meet the ever-increasing national demand for scientists in this field.