Exploring the interface between development and cancer
During the past two decades, the molecular basis of animal development has been investigated with an ever-increasing arsenal of genetic and biochemical tools. As our understanding of the fundamental processes underlying animal growth and differentiation from zygote to adult has increased, it has become clear that changes in developmental pathways often underlie disease. The major focus of our work is to explore issues at the interface between development and human disease, with a view towards identifying novel points of therapeutic intervention. We employ techniques that reach from the whole animal down to post-translational modification of individual proteins to bring the full spectrum of modern genetic, cellular, molecular biological, and biochemical approaches to bear on each problem.
Our longstanding interest in of homeobox gene function in mouse development intersected with human prostate cancer with the discovery of the mouse Nkx3.1 gene. Over the past decade, the concerted efforts of many groups, including ours, have revealed that human NKX3.1 functions as a prostate-specific tumor suppressor. NKX3.1 expression decreases in prostate cancer and in precancerous conditions. We are currently investigating molecular mechanisms controlling transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation of NKX3.1 and other prostate-restricted transcription factors that play roles in cancer.