Shrikant Anant, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair
Posttranscriptional gene regulation in inflammation and cancer, cancer stem cells and chemoprevention
Research in the laboratory is focused on various aspects of cancer biology at the molecular level. Specific research areas include (a) Regulation of gene expression at the levels of mRNA stability and translation, (b) Cancer Stem Cells, and (c) mechanism(s) of chemoprevention by dietary factors and its novel derivatives.
Regulation of Gene Expression: A major focus of the laboratory has been in the role of RNA binding proteins in posttranscriptional control of gene expression. We have identified two specific RNA binding proteins, CUGBP2 and RBM3. Both proteins interact with AU-rich sequences in the 3'untranslated region of rapidly degraded RNAs. While CUGBP2 is a translation suppressor, RBM3 is a translation enhancer. We are currently characterizing the mechanisms by which these proteins interact with the mRNA to regulate its stability and translation. We are currently also determining the effect of these RNA binding proteins in induced pluripotency.
Cancer Stem Cells: Stem cell research provides a foundation for therapeutic advancement in oncology. Currently, identification and characterization of reliable stem cell markers is the top priority in this field. We have characterized multiple markers and have also identified protooncogene-induced cancer stem cells (PICSCs), a unique resource to study the biology and therapeutic targeting of specific cancer-initiating cells within the tumor. We are currently determining the microRNA profiles and the signaling mechanisms that regulate their expression in these cells.
Dietary Chemoprevention and Novel Therapeutics: Another focus of the laboratory is to determine mechanisms by which progression of a normal cell to a cancer cell can be prevented. We are particularly interested in determining mechanisms by which dietary phytochemicals such as curcumin and marmelin regulate gene expression in colorectal, breast and pancreatic tumors. In addition, we have developed novel therapeutic agents based natural dietary compounds and are testing them for efficacy against various cancer cells. We are currently testing them in in vitro and in vivo models to determine their efficacy in inhibiting growth of tumor cell by themselves and to sensitize the cancer cells to radiation and chemotherapy. Our current research includes the molecular analysis of cancer cells following treatment with these agents.