Cancer Biology and Signaling

Scientific Goals

The scientific goal of the Cancer Biology and Signaling research program is to fill the gaps in knowledge on fundamental biological mechanisms that underlie the development of cancer. The Cancer Biology and Signaling program provides a collaborative environment for members to conduct intra-programmatic and inter-programmatic interactions leading to paradigm shifting discoveries, high impact publications, and peer-reviewed funding in cancer research

Over the past two decades, studies of cancer biology have led to the construction of a general framework for tumor development. In this framework, a series of eight biological events that underlie the formation of cancer are identified: (a) increased cell proliferation, (b) decreased cell death, (c) defects in terminal differentiation, (d) escape from life-span restriction, (e) genome instability, (f) immune evasion, (g) angiogenesis, and (h) invasion and metastasis. The studies of cancer biology over the past two decades have identified many genetic and epigenetic alterations that contribute to each of these tumorigenic processes. Despite this enormous advancement, the framework has remained a construct of general principles with critical gaps in knowledge such that cancer biology is still very much a work in progress.

Acknowledging the complexity of the biological network that governs the basic processes of cell proliferation, differentiation and cell death, members of this program not only create new knowledge but also develop new tools to promote high-throughput and computational analyses of the regulatory network.

Our members investigate basic biological mechanisms that regulate cellular responses to extracellular and intracellular cues including mitogenic factors, cell death inducers, hormones, cytokines, ions, stress and differentiation factors. Our program has expanded towards understanding the molecular basis of cancer immunity to complement a major effort on cancer immunotherapy at the Moores Cancer Center. Research by the Cancer Biology and Signaling program members has made significant and comprehensive advancement to our understanding of signaling transduction in regulation of normal cell growth control. Investigators share a common research interest on bio-regulation, yet their specific research topics are along two major themes: Signal Transduction and Cell Growth and Tumorigenesis.

Signal Transduction

Signal transduction has become a vast field in biology. Our members focus on basic mechanisms that are applicable to many cell types and diverse biological processes. We employ biochemistry, cell biology, genetics, molecular biology, and structural biology approaches to investigate how cell extrinsic and intrinsic signals are propagated to effect biological responses. The Cancer Biology and Signaling program enjoys strong expertise in a wide array of signal transduction mechanisms, with particular emphasis on kinases and phosphatases, G-proteins, and oncoproteins/tumor suppressors.

Cell Growth and Tumorigenesis

Alteration of multiple signal transduction pathways contributes to the transition from normal to malignant cell growth. The production and activity of many transcription factors, metabolic enzymes, and regulatory proteins (such as kinases and GTPases) are controlled by these signal transduction pathways and are directly responsible for abnormal cell growth in cancer. Cancer Biology and Signaling program members use various cell and animal models to identify such critical regulators in cancer development. Moreover, we study the mechanisms of oncogenes and tumor suppressors in growth of normal cells and investigate how their dysregulation contributes to tumorigenesis. Furthermore, Cancer Biology and Signaling program members apply biochemical and molecular biology approaches to investigate how to counteract malignant cell growth and how to evaluate the effect of treatment. 

Cancer Cell

Kun-Liang Guan, PhD

Kun-Liang Guan, PhD 

Professor of Pharmacology
Phone: 858-822-7945
Email: kuguan@ucsd.edu
Research summary

Dong-Er Zhang, PhD

Dong-Er Zhang, PhD 

Professor of Pathology
Phone: 858-822-5372
Email: d7zhang@ucsd.edu
Research summary