The overarching theme of the Chinnaiyan Lab at the Michigan Center for Translational Pathology (MCTP) is to discover the genetic lesions that initiate cancer development, dissect the molecular mechanisms involved in cancer progression, and exploit those findings to impact clinical diagnosis and treatment of cancers. The discovery in 2005 of TMPRSS2-ETS gene fusion as the causative genetic lesion in a majority of prostate cancers by the Chinnaiyan lab, and subsequently in other solid tumors, was a transformative advance in cancer biology. This groundbreaking discovery represented a paradigm shift, as gene fusions were thought to be typical of hematological malignancies and sarcomas, but not in epithelial tumors where genomic instability resulting in mutations, deletions, and amplifications are thought to be the main mechanisms of cancer initiation. Since then, multiple common and rare gene fusions have been identified in a variety of tumors.
We utilize multiple, innovative “omics” approaches, cutting-edge high-throughput genomic screening combined with novel bioinformatics and computational analysis as the basis of our studies. Along with powerful next-generation sequencing technology, we have developed an efficient, unbiased method for identifying gene fusions in cancer, and efforts are underway to examine a variety of cancers for recurrent gene fusions, including rare subtypes. Other molecular investigations of cancer cells and tissues have uncovered aberrations in several cellular mechanisms during cancer progression, including epigenetic regulation and expression of non-coding RNAs. Our lab has developed novel methodologies to probe cellular mechanisms on a global scale to yield a comprehensive understanding of tumorigenesis. Characterizations of gene fusion sub-types and other cancer genes have led to the identity of “druggable” targets, often with readily available therapeutics and clinical trials are underway for the treatment of a subset of breast cancer patients. We hope to eventually identify all actionable genetic lesions in cancer. We are also working to develop accurate, non-invasive diagnostic, and prognostic tools.
The strength of the Center is derived from a collaborative team approach, not just within the confines of our own laboratories, but one that extends to scientists and physician-scientists at other institutions, both nationally and internationally. We also work with members of the industry to transition our laboratory discoveries into clinical applications. We welcome inquiries for collaboration with well-qualified scientists and physicians in academia, health care institutions, and industry from around the world.
We encourage you to browse Our Research link to learn about ongoing research projects on various topics. We invite you to join us as we tackle unique, thought-provoking questions in the etiology and mechanisms of disease development.