Salk Cancer Center


Salk Institute for Biological Studies - Salk Cancer Center - Programs

Research Programs

The NCI Cancer Center is comprised of two programs:

Program 1: Genetic, Epigenetic, and Immune Circuits in Cancer

Cancer is at its root cause, a disease of specific genetic aberrations that promote tumor initiation and then are selected to promote tumor progression. Understanding the genetic contribution to cancer and how that is then altered by epigenetic controls, as well as the surrounding tumor microenvironment, and in particular the immune system is the focus of the Salk Cancer Center Program 1, Genetic, Epigenetic, and Immune Circuits in Cancer (GEI). This program utilizes a multi-faceted approach which includes mechanistic studies of gene function, dissection of genetic and epigenetic networks, technological development which leads to novel diagnostic markers, and new therapeutic approaches. Program 1 (GEI) has three overarching themes:
  1. Understanding genetic and epigenetic rewiring of transcription in tumorigenesis.
  2. Examining the contribution of altered chromosome biology and telomeres to tumorigenesis and therapeutic response
  3. Investigating the contribution of microenvironment and immune cells in modulating tumor biology and therapeutic response.
The outstanding research of GEI Program investigators has been recognized by their involvement in national and international cancer research projects including Stand Up to Cancer. Program co-Leader Ron Evans is a well-known recipient of the Lasker, Wolff, and Shaw awards in addition to being the lead PI on a current Stand Up 2 Cancer Dream Team focused on pancreatic cancer.
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Program 2: Animal Models of Cancer and Therapeutics Program

The overall goal of the Animal Models of Cancer and Therapeutics (AMT) Program is to develop and utilize advanced autochthonous mouse models to study distinct facets of tumor biology in its native environment, and to combine the development and application of novel therapeutic approaches to different model systems. The goals of these studies are represented in the following broad Specific Aims:
  1. Developing new animal models that allow exploration of complex tumor biology in vivo: roles of tissue context, stem cell populations, and differentiation.
  2. Development of novel therapeutic approaches using small molecule and biological- and viral-based methodologies.
  3. Understanding metabolic rewiring in distinct tumor types with distinct driver mutations and developing novel metabolism based diagnostics and therapeutics.
These topics are studied both in cell cultures and in vivo in animal models using diverse methods including molecular cell biology, chemistry, and systems biology. The outstanding research of AMT Program investigators has been recognized by their involvement in national and international cancer research projects, including Program co-Leader Dr. Clodagh O’Shea, who is a lead investigator on a $3M NIH 4D Nucleome Grant. O’Shea is also a recently appointed HHMI Faculty Scholar in addition to being a recipient of the Beckman Young Investigator Award and the W. M. Keck Medical Research Program Award. Program co-Leader Tony Hunter discovered a process called tyrosine phosphorylation that goes awry in many human cancers. This breakthrough revolutionized cancer medicine and led to a new type of pharmaceutical, the tyrosine kinase inhibitor, transforming several types of leukemia from fatal cancers into manageable chronic conditions. His work has been recognized with numerous awards including the Pezcoller-AACR International Award for Extraordinary Achievement in Cancer Research, the Sjöberg Prize and the Wolf Prize in Medicine.
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