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Current Research

Basic Science Research

My lab investigates genetic predictors and cellular mechanisms of metastatic progression to the bone and spine, as well as the functional consequences of disease recurrence and progression. Currently, we are focused on the role of UDP-Glucose 6-dehydrogenase (UGDH) in the progression of hormone-dependent cancers (breast and prostate). UGDH produces UDP-glucuronic acid, a component of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) and proteoglycans (PGs) of the extracellular matrix, which are implicated in a variety of human diseases, including the progression of tumors. In one of our previous studies, we identified UGDH as an important regulator of migration, cell proliferation and tumor formation. We are currently investigating the role of UGDH in brain and bone metastases. In the coming year, we will develop animal models of spine metastases and epidural spinal cord compression, and investigate molecular alterations and genetic signatures associated with spine tumor phenotypes (i.e. bone only vs. epidural disease). Our goal is to identify novel molecular predictors and therapeutic targets that will aid in the optimization of treatment paradigms for spine tumor patients

Clinical Research

In parallel, we are investigating predictors of Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQOL) and clinical outcomes in patients diagnosed with spinal tumors. Primarily, we aim to identify patient-specific, treatment-specific, and/or system-specific factors (sociodemographic, neurologic status, radiographic spinopelvic parameters, peri-operative, genetic signatures, etc.) that are associated with HRQOL and clinical outcomes in spine tumor patients. We also evaluate the impact of resource/technology timing and utilization on patient-specific expectations and outcomes (i.e. palliative care, robot-assisted surgery, etc.). The goal of these studies is to identify optimal therapeutic interventions and prognostic factors for patients diagnosed with metastatic or primary spine tumors and to improve clinical outcomes. Currently I am PI for two clinical studies (MTRON, DSOS) enrolling patients, and I am sub-PI on two other studies focusing on spine tumors.

Major areas of focus

Patient-specific Expectations, Perceptions and Burden in Tumors affecting the CNS