Our lab is interested in a class of proteins that form the core cell cycle machinery. This is the group of proteins, which operate the cell nucleus and drive cell division. Hyperactivation of the cell cycle machinery is seen in virtually all human cancer types.
Dependencies of different cancer types on particular cell cycle proteins
Our lab has found that individual cell cycle proteins are largely dispensable for proliferation of normal cells due to enormous redundancy, but these cell cycle proteins are absolutely essential in specific cancer types, depending on particular genetic lesions that these cancer cells carry. We have found that breast cancers critically require cyclin D1-CDK4 kinase for their proliferation, and this finding has been now translated to the clinics, where patients with breast cancers are being treated with CDK4 inhibitors. So one of our main thrusts of our research is to map those dependencies of different cancer types on particular cell cycle proteins and to exploit it for cancer therapy.
Cell cycle-independent functions of cell cycle proteins
This core cell cycle machinery has been remarkably conserved during the evolution from yeast to humans. One can take a human protein, put it into yeast, and most likely it will work. Our lab has found that during the evolution, the cell cycle proteins acquired completely new functions that go well beyond driving the cell cycle, and control such a diverse array of processes as for example cell metabolism or anti-tumor immunity. So, another major interest of our lab is to try to elucidate these cell cycle- independent functions of cell cycle proteins and try to understand how inhibiting these functions might affect cancer therapy.