Dr. Jian Yu Rao and his colleagues are interested in developing biomarkers that can be used for individual risk assessment, early detection and therapeutic monitoring of cancer. To reach this goal, they have two specific research areas.
The first area of research is the study of the molecular basis of tumor morphogenesis, focusing effort on investigating how cytoskeletal proteins -- specifically the microfilament actin and the associated binding proteins -- are altered in tumorigenesis. They hypothesize that since tumor cells have morphological features that are distinctive from normal cells, and since actin family proteins play important roles in regulating cell morphology, adhesion, and motility, investigating these protein changes during tumorigenesis will not only provide molecular insight for tumor morphology, but at the same time develop surrogate markers that are more sensitive and specific than morphological analysis alone. Since the actin network is regulated by multiple complex oncogenic signal transduction events, including Ras superfamily small G proteins Rac/Rho/Cdc42, and Src family proteins, and many of these proteins have been developed as potential therapeutic targets, it is possible that an actin-centric strategy for cancer detection/monitoring/prevention/therapy can be developed in the future.
The second area of research is to develop approaches that can be used to detect early malignant lesions, especially cancer of the breast, bladder and prostate. The detection of low stage malignant and premalignant lesions is essential for the successful halt, or even the reversion of malignant progression through chemoprevention strategy. The focus will be to develop simple, high throughput techniques that can be used to detect expressional abnormalities of multiple genes on a small sample volume basis. One specific example is to develop Quantitative Fluorescence Image Analysis (QFIA) as a single-cell proteomic method for biomarker analysis on cytological materials.
Selected Cancer-Related Publications:
Gossett DR, Tse HT, Lee SA, Ying Y, Lindgren AG, Yang OO, Rao J, Clark AT, Di Carlo D. Hydrodynamic stretching of single cells for large population mechanical phenotyping. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 May 15;109(20):7630-5. Epub 2012 Apr 30
Mao GE, Harris DM, Moro A, Heber D, Roy-Burman P, Zhang ZF, Rao J. A joint effect of new Western diet and retinoid X receptor á prostate-specific knockout with development of high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia in mice--a preliminary study. Prostate. 2012 Jul 1;72(10):1052-9. Epub 2012 Feb 7
Sharma S, Santiskulvong C, Bentolila L, Rao J, Dorigo O, Gimzewski JK, Bentolila LA. Correlative nanomechanical profiling with super-resolution F-actin imaging reveals novel insights into mechanisms of cisplatin resistance in ovarian cancer cells. Nanomedicine. 2012 Jul;8(5):757-66. Epub 2011 Oct 22
Jin P, Lu XJ, Sheng JQ, Fu L, Meng XM, Wang X, Shi TP, Li SR, Rao J. Estrogen stimulates the expression of mismatch repair gene hMLH1 in colonic epithelial cells. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2010 Aug;3(8):910-6. Epub 2010 Jul 27
Sheng JQ, Li SR, Wu ZT, Xia CH, Wu X, Chen J, Rao J. Transferrin dipstick as a potential novel test for colon cancer screening: a comparative study with immuno fecal occult blood test. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2009 Aug;18(8):2182-5.