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University of Colorado Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics

Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
 

Cancer Research


Cancer – know thy enemy, know thyself.

In The Art of War, Sun Tzu advised that to win battles, one must “know your enemies and know yourself.” We now know a lot about many cancers (the “enemies”), from the many deregulated signaling, metabolic, transcriptional, maintenance, and other pathways that are perturbed, to the genomic changes of thousands of individual cancers. And yet we do not really understand the forces that both limit and promote cancer development, nor how to fully exploit this knowledge for patient benefit. 

Studies in our department are geared towards understanding the enemy, cancer, using genome-wide genetic screens to identify its metabolic and signaling vulnerabilities, using proteomics to understand how it interacts with and modifies its tissue environment, and using metabolomics to reveal how cancer processes sugars and other molecules differently than normal cells.  

Other studies are geared towards understanding how the causes of cancer, like aging and smoking, influence the evolutionary trajectories of cells by altering tissue microenvironments. Importantly, as Tzu advised, we must also understand how biological systems normally function (the “yourself”) to appreciate and exploit cancer-specific mechanisms. 

Additional research in the department seeks to understand how cells divide, how they regulate gene expression (including epigenetic control of genes and the processing of the messenger RNAs), and how these processes are perturbed in cancers.​ 

 

Faculty


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Cancer Evolution and Cancer Signaling Pathways


Elan Eisenmesser, PhD​​
Viral protein/host protein interactions and enzyme motions

Kirk Hansen, PhD
Quantitative and functional proteomics, extracellular matrix processing and organization


Changwei Liu, PhD
Proteasomal degradation and spinal muscular atrophy

Aaron Johnson, PhD
Mechanisms of chromatin-mediated gene silencing

Robert A Sclafani, PhD

The regulation of the G1 to S phase transition of the cell cycle in yeast and mammalian cells

Rui Zhao, PhD

Molecular mechanism of pre-mRNA splicing; drug design targeting transcriptional complex in breast cancer