The cutting edge

At the University of Arizona Cancer Center, our researchers are joining forces to make precision medicine the new standard of care for cancer patients worldwide.

From genome sequencing to cellular biology to clinical application, the team at the UACC approaches its research from all angles to deliver the most forward-thinking, state-of-the-art cancer care.

CELL BIOLOGY
Gregory C. Rogers, PhD

Dr. Roger’s lab has published numerous papers in high-level biomedical journals detailing the molecular mechanisms cells use to maintain stability of their genomes.

A stable, steady genome leads to a happy, healthy cell. An unstable genome, therefore, can result in chromosomal instability, which Dr. Rogers refers to as CIN.

The more Dr. Rogers and his team learn about CIN, the more they learn about what causes cells to duplicate in unhealthy ways.

“Successful research is all about the questions you ask,” Dr. Rogers said. “Right now, I feel like our lab is asking the right questions, and we’re getting close to some big answers.”

Charting healthy, stable activity could potentially lead to breakthroughs in understanding these unhealthy, unstable activities, which could generate potential genetic interventions to prevent the formation of cancer.

GENOME SEQUENCING
George Watts, PhD

Dr. Watts is one of the nation’s preeminent gene and exome sequencers. His work in this field has led to some tremendous discoveries in the field of cancer therapeutics, as well as a deeper understanding of what causes cancer at its most basic genetic level.

“At the genomics core, we have the ability to sequence the shortest, most functional genes in a cost-effective and rapid fashion, which allows us to study the codes typically used to translate into healthy proteins,” Dr. Watts said. “This also means we can see the defects and mutations that take place in that sequencing, which can then help us zero in on the most effective ways to treat each patient.”

Currently, Dr. Watts and his crew are looking to sequence the exomes of new patients as soon as they walk in the door, so their oncologists can deliver personalized care from day one.

HIGH-RISK GENETICS
Christina Laukaitis, MD, PhD, FACP

A large part of Dr. Laukaitis’ research aims to identify patients at high risk for cancer due to strong family history or positive genetic test results and to incorporate prevention strategies to reduce cancer risks.

“My professional goal is to provide individual risk assessment and to implement a cancer prevention protocol before metastatic cancer develops in people at high risk of cancer because of genetic factors,” Dr. Laukaitis said.

Out of the roughly 300 patients currently being monitored in the UA Cancer Center High-Risk clinic, Dr. Laukaitis estimates that approximately 75 of them have a genetic risk factor that could be tracked to serve as an indicator for the most precise potential interventions.

-Nick Prevenas, Jan. 27, 2014