- Ph.D., D.V.M
- Molecular Therapeutics
- Pathology & Lab Medicine
- UNC-Chapel Hill
- 355 Rosenau Hall
Area of Interest
Our laboratory studies the influence of sex and other factors on the development of primary liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma; HCC). HCC is the third leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, and the fastest rising cancer in the United States. For reasons that remain poorly understood, men develop significantly more HCC than women despite nearly equal exposure to the two major risk factors: chronic viral hepatitis and aflatoxin B1. This gender disparity is recapitulated in rodent models. We have shown in mice that male sex hormones do not directly promote liver cancer. Rather, masculinization of the liver through an endocrine cascade involving growth hormone invokes changes in the hepatocyte that produces an inherent state of vulnerability to tumor-promoting inflammation.
We are using murine and cell culture systems to investigate molecular mechanisms of sex-dependent liver carcinogenesis. Currently we are exploring a potential epigenetic basis for male predisposition to HCC, with significant implications for predicting and preventing disease in humans. In addition, we are investigating metabolic liver cancer promotion in a novel wild-type F1 mouse model that develops spontaneous insulin resistance with parent-specific inheritance. Together our studies will introduce a molecular basis to define host-environment interactions in hepatocarcinogenesis, and introduce new biomarkers and molecular targets for the prevention and treatment of HCC in both men and women.
In addition to independent research, I support UNC investigators as Faculty Director of the Animal Histopathology Core. In this role, I work with other cancer researchers to insure that animal tissue specimens are properly processed and interpreted to gain the maximum benefit from these valuable models of human disease.
Awards and Honors
2010 UNC Faculty Development Award
2009 Aspen Cancer Conference, Theodore T. Puck Award for Outstanding Abstract
2008 North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute, NCTraC$10K
2005 MIT Center for Environmental Health Sciences, Pilot Award