Cancer Cell Biology
Area of interest
Our laboratory is interested in understanding the fundamental mechanism by which mammalian cells regulate their survival and death pathways. We are particularly interested in identifying differences in the apoptotic pathway between mitotic and postmitotic cells. To study this, we use a variety of models including neurons, stem cells and cancer cells.
We have identified multiple mechanisms by which apoptosis is strictly inhibited in postmitotic cells. An increased restriction of apoptosis is particularly beneficial for postmitotic cells such as neurons as they have limited regenerative potential and the need for long-term survival. Strikingly, we found that these mechanisms are also utilized by cancer cells to evade apoptosis. While neurons and cancer cells are indeed vastly distinct by most criteria, restrictions on apoptosis are physiologically important for long‐term neuronal survival; evasion of apoptosis is also a fundamental hallmark of cancer cells.
Our results have brought into focus the exciting possibility that the multiple mechanisms evolved by neurons to restrict apoptosis may be similar to those adapted by mitotic cells during cancer progression. Ongoing research is focused on studying these and identifying other novel mechanisms by which survival and death pathways are controlled in neurons, stem cells and cancer cells.
Awards and Honors
- Burroughs Wellcome New Investigator Award (2001-2003)
- UNC Chapel Hill Teaching Excellence Award (2004)
- Editorial Board, Cell Death and Differentiation (Nature Publishing Group) 2007-present
- Editorial Board, Oncogene (Nature Publishing Group) 2009- present
- Mentor of the Year Award (Neurobiology Curriculum), UNC Chapel Hill (2012)