The overall scientific goal of the Growth Regulation of Cancer (GRC) Program is to understand the molecular determinants of the pathophysiological pathways that lead to cancer development. Defining the molecular mechanisms that govern cancer development is one approach that can be used successfully to develop targeted means to intervene in this process, effect new therapies and develop new applications or more effective combinations of therapies for existing modalities. Within the GRC Program, one example of the translation of basic science findings into clinical applications is the development of a papillomavirus vaccine to prevent cervical cancer. Basic science work by Dr. Schlegel and others defined the key molecular event in the pathophysiology of cervical cancer to be infected with papillomavirus. The GRC Program focuses on three specific scientific aims intended to:
Aim 1: Identify how hormonal and growth factor signaling pathways individually and collaboratively modulate cancer development and progression.
Aim 2: Define and compare genetic pathways that determine cell fate in normal, dysplastic and cancer cells.
Aim 3: Utilize oncogenic viruses to identify pathways of malignant progression and methods to interfere with these pathways.
The first two specific aims of the GRC Program focus on two basic principles, initiation and promotion of cancer, and probe the molecules that regulate these processes with state-of-the-art conceptions on how this may occur. The first aim focuses on growth factor and hormonal pathways that are generally considered part of the process of "promotion," but might also contribute to "initiation." The major impact of the second aim is on "initiation," as it delves into the determinants of cell fate, although the relationship of this Aim is apparent to Specific Aim 1 because fate decisions also contribute to "promotion."
The third aim also focuses on cancer initiation and promotion, recognizing that the role of virology on carcinogenesis. In this way, Specific Aim 3 directly relates to Aims 1 and 2 by focusing on viral factors that act in hormonal and growth factor signaling pathways, and viral factors, which act in cell fate pathways. GRC Program members look for discoveries of important functional interactions between viral components; cellular proteins, and signaling pathways.