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Cancer Biology

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had projected that in 2016 the total number of new cases of cancer is expected to be around 14.5 lakhs and 7.36 lakh people are expected to succumb to this disease. These numbers are forecasted to rise to more than 17.3 lakh new cases and 6.8 lakh cancer-related deaths annually by 2020. Cancer is a complex disease and our current understanding is insufficient to treat cancer patients. At ILS, scientists have adapted multi-disciplinary approaches to understand and identify novel strategies to combat various types of cancers such as leukemia, oral, pancreatic, prostate and breast cancer. Through an interdisciplinary program, the group aims to explore new avenues to develop diagnostics, therapeutics and prevention approaches for different cancers. To better understand the pathogenesis of specific cancers, scientists at ILS collaborate with clinicians and have observed various cellular and molecular alterations that are perturbed during onset and progression of cancer. Moreover, we have been able to utilize a large cohort of patient samples and identify novel markers which could be exploited for early diagnosis and targeted therapy. Currently, we are working to identify novel drug candidates through in silico and/or in-vitro drug screening, validation in cell culture and animal models, and their further modification through nanotechnology approach to enhance drug efficacy and delivery.

Scientists Working in the Field

Major activities undertaken during last 5 years

Breast cancer group is actively involved in understanding the epigenetic mechanisms underlying the disease Estrogen Receptor (ER) positive breast cancer with special emphasis on Tamoxifen resistance, which is the second leading cause of deaths among women worldwide. In collaboration with clinicians this group is specifically investigating the role of Estrogen related receptor beta (ERR beta) in the above mentioned resistance. The roles of few other molecules are under investigation.

Leukemic stem cells group is investigating the mechanisms responsible for the survival of the lineage negative CD34+ leukemic stem cells against tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Studies are also undertaken to potentiate myeloid cell differentiation in advanced phases of the disease by identifying the factors that are deregulated during the progression of this disease. This group is also trying to decipher the role of post-translational modifications that regulate the activity of an oncogene.

Cancer nanomedicine group has interest and expertise in harnessing the strength of nanotechnology for different cancers’ diagnosis and therapy. The group specifically focuses on designing different drug-loaded nanocarriers and check their anticancer efficacy in different cell culture and animal models.

Oral cancer group has interest on understanding and targeting chemoresistance in Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma (OSCC). Though cisplatin and 5-Fu are the most commonly used drugs for OSCC, resistance to cisplatin is the major hurdle for effective therapy. Hence, the group has actively undertaken different studies that will identify novel therapeutic approaches for this disease.

Tumor microenvironment group has the interest to understand and target inflammation-mediated events in prostate and pancreatic cancer. It specifically aims to understand the role of bacterial infection in prostate cancer pathogenesis, this group has undertaken multidisciplinary approaches to investigate the functional role of bacterial infection in prostate cancer. In a different study, this group is actively involved in deciphering the cross-talk between cancer-associated fibroblast and pancreatic cancer cells to target the key cellular and molecular events.

Tumor angiogenesis group is interested in understanding the mechanisms of endothelial gene expression during tumor angiogenesis using human endothelial cells and zebrafish as a model. The group is also interested in identifying and characterizing small molecule inhibitors that can block angiogenesis in human tumors.

Computational biology group is involved in identifying candidate genes that play an important role in the etiology of OSCC. The study has the potential for identification of the proteins that can be used for the development of new therapeutic strategies and diagnostic kits.

Immune modulation group has an interest in understanding the mechanisms of lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) in immune cell regulation and cancer. In many types of cancer, LPA is highly dysregulated, hence, the group is actively investigating the possible role of LPA in tumor associated macrophages.

Chromatin biology group is investigating the role of chromatin modifiers and epigenetic factors in myelopoiesis and how their misregulation leads to the onset of hematopoietic malignancies.

Genomic instability and cancer group is trying to understand the mechanism and regulation of DNA replication in humans and decipher the role of TLS DNA polymerases in chemoresistance in cancers. Fidelity of DNA polymerases is crucial for genome stability and function. As accumulation of somatic mutations due to dysregulated or error-prone DNA replication induces carcinogenesis and chemoresistance in cancers, DNA polymerases are the potential chemo-preventative and therapeutic drug targets.