The work in our laboratory focuses on translational issues related to early cancer detection and understanding metastasis. Four fundamental areas of research are:
1) Development of molecular imaging probes. We have used a variety of different platforms to develop novel imaging probes that characterize and phenotype tumors.
2) Discovery of lung cancer biomarkers and novel therapeutic targets. In the effort to develop blood biomarkers for the early detection of lung cancer we explore multiple different strategies. Our current approach uses cell-free DNA to differentiate benign from malignant pulmonary nodules.
3) Prediction of cancer phenotype. Given the marked degree of tumor heterogeneity, we postulate that the clonal evolution of a tumor based on single tumor cell sequencing, and reconstruction of a phylogenetic tree may be useful in predicting the tumor’s phenotype (and whether the tumor will be indolent or more aggressive and metastasize).
4) Host immunity and cancer. Our studies on the host response and humoral immunity, particularly in early stage, “exceptional outcomes” patients, have lead us to examine the potential role of autoantibodies as part of a tumor control mechanism. We previously reported an association between early stage lung cancer and an antibody against a complement regulatory protein, CFH, in protecting tumor cells from complement lysis. We have recently developed a novel anti-CFH antibody by sequencing single B cells from patients that make these antibodies. This unique strategy presents a novel opportunity to take cues from the native immune system in developing new cancer therapies.