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Cancer Biology Research

Cell Biology

Since the signing of the National Cancer Act in 1971 there has been enormous growth in our understanding of cancer biology and we are beginning to see the application of this knowledge to develop improved treatments for cancer. Faculty in the Pharmacology Department are at the forefront of this research with the broad goal of developing a detailed understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms that drive cancer cell behavior and then applying this understanding to develop better, more tailored treatments for cancer. This concept, which exemplifies the idea of personalized medicine, is pursued in close collaboration with our colleagues in the University of Colorado Cancer Center to ensure that discoveries in the Department can be rapidly translated to the clinic.

Specific areas of cancer biology research in the Department include the study of mechanisms of cancer drug resistance, metastasis and tumor cell growth and death using cell biological, structural, biochemical, genetic and bioinformatics approaches. Additionally we have a major emphasis on the development of methods to identify gene expression patterns and other markers that predict which patients will be most likely to benefit from treatment with a particular anti-cancer drug.


Primary Faculty

Joshua Black​, Assistant Professor

Ph.D., 2008, Univ. of California, Los Angeles​
Understanding how the chromatin microenvironment regulates genome stability, cancer cell heterogeneity and chemotherapeutic response.​

M. Cecilia CainoAssistant Professor
Ph.D., 2010, Universidad de Buenos Aires
Our group aims to understand how mitochondria reprogramming in tumors impact cellular behaviors that drive progressive and lethal cancer.  We use a broad repertoire of biochemistry, cell biology, live cell imaging and animal models to study the impact of mitochondria shape, number and subcellular distribution in metastatic dissemination.​

Costello, James C., Assistant Professor

Ph.D., 2009, Indiana Univ.
Systems and network biology approaches to disentangle signaling pathways in cancer development; Computational modeling of how therapeutic compounds function across different genomic backgrounds.

Cramer, Scott D., Professor
Ph.D., 1992, Univ. of California, Santa Cruz
The molecular dissection of signaling pathways in prostatic cells, the identification of prostate progenitor or stem cells, and understanding epithelial-stromal interactions in normal and abnormal ductal morphogenesis.

Espinosa, Joaquín M​., Professor
D.Phil., 1999, Univ. of Buenos Aires
Mechanisms of gene expression control in homeostasis and disease, cancer biology, targeted therapeutics, Down syndrome.

Ford, Heide L., Professor
Ph.D., 1995, Univ. of Rochester
My laboratory studies the parallels between normal development and tumorigenesis/metastasis with a focus on the role of the Six1/Eya transcriptional complex in TGF-beta signaling, epithelial to mesenchymal transition, cancer stem cells, and metastasis.

Kutateladze, Tatiana G., Professor
Ph.D., 1988, Moscow State Univ.
Epigenetics, phosphoinositide signaling, structural biology, NMR and crystal structures of proteins implicated in cancer, structure based drug design.

Thorburn, Andrew M., Professor and Chairman
D.Phil., 1990, Univ. of Oxford
Understanding the signaling mechanisms that control apoptosis in cancer development and during the response of tumor cells to cancer therapeutics.

Secondary Faculty

Ernst, Patricia, Professor
Ph.D., 1996, Univ. of California, Los Angeles
Hematopoietic Stem Cell Development and Maintenance: The Role of the "Mixed Lineage Leukemia" Gene in Normal Blood Cell Development, Differentiation and Leukemia.

Theodorescu, Dan, Professor and Director of the Univ. of Colorado Comprehensive Cancer Center
M.D., 1986, Queen's Univ. Faculty of Health Sciences; Ph.D., 1993, Univ. of Toronto
I'm a physician scientist. Our translational molecular biology laboratory focuses on identifying the molecular mechanisms leading to bladder cancer metastasis and their potential applications to patients with this disease. Our group is at the forefront of the development of biomarkers and therapeutics in bladder cancer. My clinical practice is limited to bladder cancer management including surgery such as radical cystectomy using state of the art robotic techniques (i.e. da Vinci).