UC Merced

UC Merced professor finds genetic triggers related to cancer

UC Merced professor of systems biology and cancer metabolism, Fabian Filipp, speaks about his research inside Science and Engineering Building 2 on the campus on Thursday. Filipp is working to develop precision targeting of cancer cells for personalized medicine.
UC Merced professor of systems biology and cancer metabolism, Fabian Filipp, speaks about his research inside Science and Engineering Building 2 on the campus on Thursday. Filipp is working to develop precision targeting of cancer cells for personalized medicine. akuhn@mercedsun-star.com

After studying human cancer cells, a UC Merced professor was able to identify certain triggers in genes that cause and control cancer.

Fabian Filipp, professor of systems biology and cancer metabolism, found that the “hidden layers” controlling the activity of genes are critical to understanding the progression of cancer cells.

Cancer cells find many ways to survive drugs that target them, Filipp said, and his research aimed to discover ways to overcome that resistance through precision medicine, an approach in disease treatment and prevention that takes the variables of individuals into consideration, according to the National Institutes of Health.

“The idea, then, is to target the regulator that controls the survival in a cancer cell,” Filipp told the Merced Sun-Star.

Precision medicine has the goal of identifying which targets are beneficial and effective to each person’s unique genomic and epigenomic makeup, Filipp said.

“What we did is we profiled the landscape of regulation in human cancer,” Filipp said. “Everybody knows that genes encode life, but not everybody knows that there’s a hidden layer of regulation controlling the activity of our genes without changing the core code of our DNA.”

What we did is we profiled the landscape of regulation in human cancer. Everybody knows that genes encode life, but not everybody knows that there’s a hidden layer of regulation controlling the activity of our genes without changing the core code of our DNA.

Fabian Filipp, professor of systems biology and cancer metabolism at UC Merced

“This field is known as epigenomics,” he said, “Epigenomics changes are not just a passive byproduct of cancer, in fact epigenomics controls an entire network of cancer genes and takes the role of a cancer-causing gene, oncogene.”

Knowing all the parts of a cell is not enough information to determine how cancer cells “arise and spread,” Filipp said. Knowledge of how the cell functions and divides is needed, as well as knowing the activity of each gene.

“We need to find out what regulates the cell,” he said.

“Everybody has a similar set of genes, but what makes us unique is their activity and, in a way, how the information is expressed,” Filipp said. “Targeting those newly identified genes and pathways could give researchers a new avenue for precision medicine and the fight against cancer.”

Filipp’s group has published several research articles on precision targeting of therapy-resistant cancer, including cover stories in Springer’s Cancer and Metastasis Reviews, as well as the journal Oncotarget, according to UC Merced.

Monica Velez: 209-385-2486

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