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:
Lu QY, Jin YS, Zhang ZF, Le AD, Heber D, Li FP, Dubinett SM, Rao JY. Green tea induces annexin-I expression in human lung adenocarcinoma A549 cells: involvement of annexin-I in actin remodeling. Lab Invest. 2007; 87(5): 456-65.
Lu QY, Jin YS, Pantuck A, Zhang ZF, Belldegrun A, M Brooks, Figlin R, Rao J. Green tea extract modulates actin remodeling via rho activity in an in vitro multi-step carcinogenic model. Clinical Cancer Research. 2005; 11(4):1675-1683.
Rao J , Li N. Microfilament actin remodeling as potential target for cancer drug development. current cancer drug targets. 2004; 4(4):345-54.
Rao J, Hemstreet GP, Hurst RE, Bonner RB, Jones PL, Min KW, Fradet Y. Alterations in phenotypic biochemical markers in bladder epithelium during tumorigenesis. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1993; 90:8287-8291.
Rao J, Hemstreet GP, Hurst RE, Bass RA, Min KW, Jones PL. Cellular F-actin levels as a marker for cellular transformation: II. Correlation with bladder cancer risk. Cancer Res. 1991; 51:2762-2767.