Undergraduate Research Opportunities in Cancer

Begley Lab

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Alkylating agents are a major class of chemotherapeutics used to induce apoptosis and treat cancers of the blood, brain and breast. The Begley laboratory studies the genetic determinants that modulate the effects of chemotherapeutic alkylating agents. We employ global systems biology based experiments, computational modeling and targeted molecular analysis of signaling pathways to gain insight into mechanisms of chemotherapeutic resistance.

Cancer Research Center

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The central mission of the University at Albany Cancer Research Center is to conduct research and provide training related to understanding the genetic and environmental causes of cancer. The basic research mission is focused on the underlying biology associated with tumor initiation and progression, and the development and evaluation of chemopreventive regimens and therapeutic approaches for common cancers.

Eric Block Research Group

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Block's group is very actively involved in an area broadly described as Allium chemistry, e.g. the analysis, isolation, spectroscopy, synthetic and mechanistic organosulfur chemistry, clinical trials of garlic supplements, development of garlic- and onion-oil based pesticides and other applied work on onion, garlic and related, economically important plants including the little studied ramps (Allium tricoccum).

Fuchs Laboratory

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My lab is interested in the following questions: How is ribosome composition altered in cells during stress and during a viral infection? How does ribosome composition regulate how much and which proteins are synthesized? Are ribosomes in cancer cells different from ribosomes in healthy cells? Cab we use ribosome modifications to identify novel biomarkers for early cancer detection?

Herschkowitz Lab

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The research in my laboratory involves integrative approaches, utilizing multidisciplinary techniques including methods in molecular biology, cell biology, mouse models, histology, microscopy, flow cytometry, genomics, bioinformatics and systems biology to elucidate the molecular mechanisms involved in breast cancer progression and therapeutic resistance. Evidence from our laboratory and others has shown that there exist cells within tumors that have an intrinsic resistance to radiation and chemotherapeutics compared to the bulk of the tumor. These cells, often referred to as cancer stem cells (CSCs) or tumor initiating cells may also be responsible for metastatic dissemination and tumor dormancy and recurrence. Breast CSCs can have an epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) phenotype and inducing EMT in human mammary epithelial cells can confer on them the properties of stem cells. In addition, we identified an aggressive molecular subtype of breast cancer that is enriched for CSCs. In recent years it has been appreciated that along with protein coding genes, much of our genome encodes tens of thousands of functional RNAs that do not make proteins. This includes small RNAs called microRNAs which have been very well studied as well as a large class of long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) the functions of which still very much need to be explored. We hypothesize that lncRNAs play a critical role in an EMT gene expression program governed in part by RNA-mediated epigenetic regulation leading to resistance to conventional therapies in breast cancer. Our goal, using several model systems, is to first identify and then investigate the mechanisms of action of lncRNAs that regulate the EMT/CSC phenotype of claudin-low breast tumors using siRNA or antisense knockdown, CRISPR genome engineering, and lentiviral overexpression in cell culture and in animal models.

Lennartz Lab

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Macrophages play a major role in health and disease. Our research focuses on the cell biology of macrophages, using an IgG-phagocytosis system to model uptake and killing of pathogens and to study the underlying causes of heart disease. Using viral vectors to deliver signaling molecules to macrophages, we are studying the pathways linking the IgG receptor to gene activation. We use real time imaging to follow uptake of particles (pathogens or IgG-coated articles) and the movement of signaling molecules during this process. We also have an animal model that we are using to study the pathology of stroke and the role of macrophages and Fc receptors in plaque rupture. Techniques being used include immunofluorescence, electron microscopy, and confocal imaging. These projects use macrophages to bridge the fields of cell and molecular biology, immunology, microbiology, and medicine.

Melendez Lab

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Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are major contributors to numerous disease conditions including arthritis, atherosclerosis, cancer, ischemia-reperfusion injury, nervous system disorders and the process of aging. Studies in the laboratory focus on how mitochondrial-derived ROS and antioxidant enzymes regulate signaling transduction cascades, gene expression, cell growth, proliferation and ultimately, pathogen infection, tumor growth and metastases. We utilize state-of-the-art cell, biochemical, microscopy and molecular methodologies to perform these studies. Our ultimate goal is to develop antioxidant-based therapies for the prevention and treatment of infection and cancer. We are also applying technologies available at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering to develop nanodevices to assess cellular redox state, matrix destruction and perform high throughput screening. A Cadre of post-doctoral, graduate and undergraduate students and numerous outside collaborations are the foundation for these studies. Depending on the project the student will perform cell culture, western blot analysis, PCR, plasmid construction, immunofluorescence microscopy and a variety of spectroscopic techniques.

Multiplex Biotechnology Laboratory

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Our group is focused on development of multiplex biotechnologies based on nanotechnology and microfluidics, particularly barcode arrays, for disease diagnostics and forensic investigation. This unique lab also aims to apply the multiplex tools and employ principles in systems biology and physics to tackle the major challenges in immunology and cancer therapeutics, and to offer new perspectives of multi-scale biosystem development.

Pager Lab

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The Pager lab is interested in the interaction and mechanisms by which RNA viruses subvert the cellular RNA metabolism pathways. We are particularly intrigued by how flaviviruses such as hepatitis C virus and Dengue virus commandeer the host’s mRNA storage and decay machinery to successfully establish an infection.

Pata Laboratory

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DNA replication is a fundamentally important process in all cells. Mistakes during replication cause mutations as well as large scale genome rearrangements, which can ultimately cause antibiotic resistance in bacteria as well as aging, cancer and resistance to chemotherapy in humans. Over the past decade, the number of known polymerases responsible for genome duplication has expanded dramatically, yet our understanding of how all these enzymes contribute to genome stability is far from complete.

Rangan Lab

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The goal of the Rangan Laboratory is to understand how a stem cell fate is initiated, maintained and terminated. Stem cells have the capacity to both self-renew and differentiate. Improper differentiation or self-renewal of stem cells can result in a loss of homeostasis, which has been implicated in human afflictions such as cancer and degenerative diseases.

Reliene Laboratory

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The focus of the lab is on translational cancer research on gene-environment and gene-nutrient interactions. We investigate whether mutations in DNA repair genes enhance susceptible to cancer associated with environmental causes and whether the risk of cancer can be reduced with intake of dietary antioxidants. For example, we are currently exploring the concept that antioxidant-rich pomegranate extract protects against breast cancer. Other projects include studies on genotoxic and cancer risks of engineered nanoparticles used in consumer products. We use genomic technologies in combination with cell and molecular biology and whole animal approaches to dissect the complexity of cancer.

Royzen Lab

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The Royzen Research Group is interested in developing new synthetic and imaging tools for RNA research

Sammons Lab

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Our lab studies how transcription factors decode and transmit information stored on DNA. We are particularly interested in how one such transcription factor, p53, reads DNA information in the context of chromatin/DNA structure. p53 is the most commonly mutated gene in cancer, and loss of p53 activity is the strongest predictor of cancer development in mammalian systems, including humans. We use genetic, molecular, and genomic technologies to explore the relationship between how DNA information is stored and how that information is read and acted upon by the p53 transcription factor.

Sheng Lab

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Our lab is interested in the structural and functional studies of naturally occurring modifications in nucleic acid, the most important biological macromolecules. The diversified chemical modifications discovered in DNA and RNA (including tRNA, mRNA, rRNA and all the other non-coding RNAs) play critical biological roles and are directly related to many diseases. We hope the atomic-level understanding of their 3D structures and their metabolic pathways will lead to better elucidation of their functions and shed light on the potential drug discovery based on them. In addition, these modifications are the most evolutionarily conserved properties in the early stage of cellular life, providing important clues to study the prebiotic chemistry and the origin of life.

Shi Laboratory

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Areas of interest: molecular and cellular biology of transcription and signal transduction, aptamer-mediated multi-pathway control in living cells and organisms, and drug discovery and development for cancer

Tenniswood Lab

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Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is the most aggressive and lethal form of breast cancer. Despite its lethality, very little research is focused on understanding the origins of inflammatory breast cancer or development of targeted treatments. Recent studies by our laboratory using cell lines derived from IBC, have identified a non-toxic drug, CG-1521, that is capable of inducing dramatic tumor cell death in cell culture and in animal models of IBC. Microarray analyses of the changes in the expression of microRNAs and mRNAs indicate that CG-1521 targets numerous pathways including: cell cycle progression and cell-to-cell adhesion. Strikingly, the molecules pertinent to the spindle assembly checkpoint are significantly altered, suggesting that CG-1521 disrupts the formation of the mitotic spindle and induces mitotic catastrophe. The next step in the research, which will involve undergraduate students, is to validate the changes in mRNA and microRNA expression using Real-Time PCR and Western analysis. In addition we will use immuno-histochemistry of proteins implicated in spindle checkpoint arrest and mitotic catastrophe, both in cell culture and in tissue sections from orthotopic tumors grown in nude mice.

The Conklin Laboratory

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Research interests: Functional genomics of cellular proliferation regulation, mammalian cell genetics.

Welch Research Group

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Research interests: organic chemistry, anti-mycobacterial agents, genetically engineered materials, and transition metal complex chemistry

Welsh Lab

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Our lab studies nutrition, nuclear receptors, genomics and cancer in relation to several types of cancers, including breast, prostate, skin and colon. Our specific focus is to identify molecular mechanisms by which dietary-derived nuclear receptor ligands reduce the risk of cancer development and progression. Students will contribute to NIH funded research on nuclear receptor signaling and cancer. Projects may include defining the mechanisms by which vitamin D and other nutrients reduce the risk of breast cancer, studying how different cells interact in complex tissues to alter cancer development, analysis of normal and tumor tissue by histochemical methods, or characterization of stem cell differentiation in vitro. Students will work alongside graduate students and/or post-doctoral fellows and may utilize cellular, molecular or whole-animal models as experimental approaches.

Xie Lab

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We aim at applying nanotechnology to stem cell research in order to create stem cell-based platform for understanding adipogenesis and breast cancer. Recent studies have shown that the microenvironment influenced stem cell fate decisions. Using nanotechnology we are able to manipulate stem cell microenvironments and direct stem cell behaviors. Currently, we are investigating the stem cell-microenvironment interaction in an in vivo-like, 3-D setting. In particular, we are examining the role of biomaterials, surface chemistry, and bio-patterning in the maintenance and differentiation of embryonic stem cells. The students will perform biomaterials fabrication and characterization, stem cell culture, immunocytochemistry, Western blot analysis, PCR, optical and fluorescence microscopy, and spectrophotometry depending on the project assigned.

Yigit Lab

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Our group is interested in studying two and three dimensional nanoparticles for addressing biological, biomedical and environmental challenges.