DNA damage occurs as a consequence of normal cellular processes and from environmental exposures. Cellular changes that result from this damage contribute to the normal aging process and to the development of diseases, most notably cancer. To counteract this damage cells have signaling pathways that sense and repair these lesions. On the other hand, treatments for cancer such as radiotherapy and some chemotherapeutics rely on delivering large amounts of DNA damage that overwhelm the cell and cause cell death. The major goals in the laboratory are to understand the contribution of DNA damage and its cellular signaling to pathogenesis, and to develop more effective methods for treating cancer.
The lab is particularly focused on how the DNA damage response interacts with ongoing cellular processes, such as transcription. Using a combination of biochemistry, molecular biology, and genetic methods we are exploring how the DNA damage response elicits changes in cellular physiology and genome organization that occur during cancer development and therapy. We are also focused on how radiotherapy can initiate cellular signaling paradigms that influence patient responses to immunotherapy. In collaboration with our clinical colleagues our aim is to take these studies in fundamental cell biology and use them to improve the treatment of cancer while reducing unwanted side-effects in patients.