The Offringa lab studies the cancer that kills the most Americans every year (over 150,000 people, or a full Boeing 747 of people per day). More people die of lung cancer than from breast, prostate, and colon cancer combined. The high death rate is largely a result of the absence of accurate early detection tools.
To develop markers for molecular diagnosis of lung cancer, we are studying DNA methylation patterns in lung cancer. This work is carried out in collaboration with a multidisciplinary team of investigators inside and outside USC. We have concentrated most on lung adenocarcinoma, the most commonly diagnosed type of lung cancer, arising in the lung periphery.
One aspect of early detection is risk classification; the subjects at highest risk should be screened. The Offringa lab is therefore studying the role of single nucleotide polymorphisms in lung cancer predisposition.
We are also interested in the molecular process underlying cancerous transformation. To better understand how lung epithelium can become abnormal during cancer development, it is key to understand how normal lung epithelium differentiates and responds to injury. Thus, in collaboration with the laboratory of Dr. Zea Borok and Dr. Beiyun Zhou, we study the epigenetic basis for normal alveolar epithelial cell differentiation.
The Offringa lab also studies small cell lung cancer (SCLC), the most aggressive type of lung cancer. SCLC rapidly metastasizes and patients have an average 5-year survival of just 6%. We are analyzing patients' anti-cancer immune responses to see how these could be leveraged for therapy.
Lastly, we are interested in protein engineering and biomolecular interactions, which are key to the development of new drugs and therapies. The Offringa lab oversees the Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center's brand new SwitchSENSE DRX2 Biosensor, which is used to analyze biomolecular interactions.
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