Dr. Rao's lab is interested in developing tools for cancer screening, early detection, and therapeutic monitoring.
Technical Research Interests:
The research in my laboratory is focused on developing biomarkers that can be used for individual risk assessment, early detection, and therapeutic monitoring of cancer. To reach this goal, we have two specific research areas.
The first area of research is to study the molecular basis of tumor morphogenesis, we focus our effort on investigating how cytoskeletal proteins, specifically the microfilament actin and the associated binding proteins, are altered in tumorigenesis. We hypothesize that since tumor cells have morphological features that are distinctive from normal cells, and since actin family proteins play important roles in regulating cell morphology, adhesion, as well as motility, investigating these protein changes during tumorigenesis will not only provide molecular insight for tumor morphology, but at the same time develop surrogate markers that are more sensitive and specific than morphological analysis alone. Since actin network is regulated by multiple complex oncogenic signal transduction events, including Ras superfamily small G proteins Rac/Rho/Cdc42, and Src family proteins, and many of these proteins have been developed as the potential therapeutic targets, it is possible that an actin centric strategy for cancer detection/monitoring/prevention/therapy can be developed in he future.
Our second area of research is to develop approaches that can be used to detect early malignant lesions, especially cancer of the breast, bladder, and prostate. The detection of low stage malignant and premalignant lesions is essential for the successful halt, or even the reversion of malignant progression through chemoprevention strategy. The focus will be to develop simple, high throughput techniques that can be used to detect expressional abnormalities of multiple genes on a small sample volume basis. One specific example is to develop Quantitative Fluorescence Image Analysis (QFIA) as a single-cell proteomic method for biomarker analysis on cytological materials.