UNDERSTANDING HUMAN CERVICAL CANCER PROGRESSION AND BUILDING A BIOLOGY-MEDICINE INTERPHASE

Our group has two interests, i) understanding the nature of human cervical cancer progression with a particular focus on sub-sets of CD66+ cells ii) and enabling inter-campus bio-medical efforts spanning diverse areas such as hematology, HLA platforms, Dengue vaccines etc.

Human cervical cancers constitute a major burden of female malignancies in our country and are caused by papillomaviruses of the highly oncogenic type. Our cumulative data over decades has led us to suggest that ligand dependent Notch pathway activation acts as a “second signal” in human cervical cancer progression (reviewed in Maliekal T. et. al., Oncogene 2008). Subsequently, we have identified a sub-set of CD66+ cells with distinctive promoting properties and is dependent on Notch signaling (Bajaj J. et al., Cancer Research 2011 and Pattabiraman C. et al., Cancer Research 2014). Currently, following the work of Aswathy Ammothumkandy and collaborators from Kidwai Memorial Hospital showing that CD66+ cells are associated with metastasis progression and have distinct roles in migration, Calvin Rodrigues and Leanna Rose Joy are exploring the role of epigenetic regulators in cervical cancer progression and analyzing antibodies that target CD66+ proteins.

Since 2008, we have been working intensively with the St. John’s medical college campus and built extensive research laboratories, explored joint teaching programs with medical colleagues, developed gene editing and NGS platforms that will enable better HLA typing (Gowda, M. et al., 2016) and supported Chitra Pattabiraman and colleagues in developing a viral genomics program.

Independent Post-Doctoral Program:

  • Reety Arora is an independent fellow in our group funded by the Wellcome Trust-DBT India Alliance. She is trained in molecular biology and Tumor virology from University of Pittsburgh. She is currently working on understanding how Tumor viruses , specifically Merkel cell polyomavirus, cause cancer. She is also interested in further analysing how similar this tumorigenesis process is to stemness. This fits into the overall theme of our group of studying plasticity in cancer cells although in a different skin cancer model.
  • Anshika Singh is a Post-doctoral fellow in our lab. With a background in marine biology, she is working on investigating the immune-related responses generated in marine sponges against the natural pathogens. In collaboration with Dr. N.L. Thakur, CSIR- NIO, she is currently establishing primmorph cultures from the selected species of  marine sponges. By exploiting the experimental strengths of primmorph culture and NGS, she aims to provide valuable information on the origin of the immune system in these primitive animals. This fits into the overall theme of our team to understand various aspects of immune system and its role in disease manifestations.
  • Sanjukta Mukherjee is an independent fellow in our group funded by the NCBS campus Fellowship program. She is an expert in chemical biology and recently moved from Osaka University after undertaking her post-phd research. Her research interests lie in the interdisciplinary fields of organic synthesis, nucleic acid chemistry, chemical biology, biophysics and molecular biology in order to understand nucleic acids-ligands interaction. Insights gained from these studies will aid in the development of diagnostics and therapeutics targeting diseases such as cancer, neurological, neurodegenerative and neuromuscular disorders that are currently incurable. Her interest is in understanding recognition of biologically relevant expanded repeats or oncomiR by small cyclic molecules named cyclic mismatch binding ligands (CMBLs).

Two recent Publications: