Tumor Initiation and Maintenance Program

fluorescently stained skin cancer sample

How cancer begins

Cells become cancerous after acquiring a series of mutations in their DNA, which occur as a result of exposure to radiation, cigarette smoke, dietary components or a genetic predisposition.

Mutations may intensify or eliminate the messages cells use to grow, stop growing or die. Cells then begin to divide too often and are unable to die, forming tumors. Identifying the mutations, signals and mechanisms that promote and sustain tumors creates new opportunities to target human cancer.

Director's statement

We’ve brought together scientists with expertise in developmental and stem cell biology with investigators who focus on RNA biology and the signaling pathways that regulate cell growth and cell fate. The diversity of our faculty members, along with our shared interests in what drives cancer cell growth, is fostering strong interactions that will lead to breakthrough treatments for brain, breast and prostate cancers, as well as melanoma and leukemia.

– Robert Wechsler-Reya, Ph.D., Program Director



N6-methyladenosine RNA modification regulates embryonic neural stem cell self-renewal through histone modifications.

Wang Y, Li Y, Yue M, Wang J, Kumar S, Wechsler-Reya RJ, Zhang Z, Ogawa Y, Kellis M, Duester G, Zhao JC

Nat Neurosci 2018 Feb ;21(2):195-206

HDAC and PI3K Antagonists Cooperate to Inhibit Growth of MYC-Driven Medulloblastoma.

Pei Y, Liu KW, Wang J, Garancher A, Tao R, Esparza LA, Maier DL, Udaka YT, Murad N, Morrissy S, Seker-Cin H, Brabetz S, Qi L, Kogiso M, Schubert S, Olson JM, Cho YJ, Li XN, Crawford JR, Levy ML, Kool M, Pfister SM, Taylor MD, Wechsler-Reya RJ

Cancer Cell 2016 Mar 14 ;29(3):311-323

The transcription factor ATF2 promotes melanoma metastasis by suppressing protein fucosylation.

Lau E, Feng Y, Claps G, Fukuda MN, Perlina A, Donn D, Jilaveanu L, Kluger H, Freeze HH, Ronai ZA

Sci Signal 2015 Dec 8 ;8(406):ra124

The role of TP53 in acute myeloid leukemia: Challenges and opportunities.

Barbosa K, Li S, Adams PD, Deshpande AJ

Genes Chromosomes Cancer 2019 Aug 8 ;

Resolving medulloblastoma cellular architecture by single-cell genomics.

Hovestadt V, Smith KS, Bihannic L, Filbin MG, Shaw ML, Baumgartner A, DeWitt JC, Groves A, Mayr L, Weisman HR, Richman AR, Shore ME, Goumnerova L, Rosencrance C, Carter RA, Phoenix TN, Hadley JL, Tong Y, Houston J, Ashmun RA, DeCuypere M, Sharma T, Flasch D, Silkov A, Ligon KL, Pomeroy SL, Rivera MN, Rozenblatt-Rosen O, Rusert JM, Wechsler-Reya RJ, Li XN, Peyrl A, Gojo J, Kirchhofer D, Lötsch D, Czech T, Dorfer C, Haberler C, Geyeregger R, Halfmann A, Gawad C, Easton J, Pfister SM, Regev A, Gajjar A, Orr BA, Slavc I, Robinson GW, Bernstein BE, Suvà ML, Northcott PA

Nature 2019 Aug ;572(7767):74-79

EGFR-Pak Signaling Selectively Regulates Glutamine Deprivation-Induced Macropinocytosis.

Lee SW, Zhang Y, Jung M, Cruz N, Alas B, Commisso C

Dev Cell 2019 Aug 5 ;50(3):381-392.e5

Macropinocytosis in Cancer: A Complex Signaling Network.

Zhang Y, Commisso C

Trends Cancer 2019 Jun ;5(6):332-334

Acute myeloid leukemia driven by the CALM-AF10 fusion gene is dependent on BMI1.

Barbosa K, Deshpande A, Chen BR, Ghosh A, Sun Y, Dutta S, Weetall M, Dixon J, Armstrong SA, Bohlander SK, Deshpande AJ

Exp Hematol 2019 Jun ;74:42-51.e3

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