Molecular Cell Biology & Cancer Research Group

Knowing the components of cells and how cells work is fundamental to all biological sciences. There are similarities and differences between cell types, which is particularly important to the fields of cell and molecular biology as well as to biomedical fields such as cancer research and developmental biology. These fundamental similarities and differences can permit the principles learned from studying one cell type to be extrapolated to other cell types. Thus, research in cell biology is closely related to genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology, Immunology and developmental biology.

Oncogenically transformed cells arise through a multistep process, and are normally subject to immune surveillance and elimination by the immune system. Several hereditary factors can increase the chance of cancer-causing mutations, including the activation of oncogenes or the inhibition of tumor suppressor genes. Various oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes can be disrupted at different stages of tumor progression, and mutations in such genes can be used to classify the malignancy of a tumor. The identification of oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes is important to understand tumor progression and treatment success. Much of the research done by this group is focused on understanding the immune mechanisms involved in tumor recognition and rejection, as well as fundamental mechanisms of cellular transformation. Studies include translational research aimed at improving cancer therapeutics and/or cancer vaccines.

Microbiology & Immunology Department Faculty

  • Gail E. Christie, Ph.D.
    Role of bacteriophages in microbial evolution and pathogenesis; regulation of prokaryotic gene expression; RNA polymerase structure and function.
  • Phillip B. Hylemon, Ph.D.
    Steroid metabolism by intestinal anaerobic gut bacteria, regulation of cholesterol and bile acid synthesis in hepatocyte monolayer cultures.
  • Masoud H. Manjili, Ph.D.
    Immunotherapy of breast cancer, tumor escape and antigen loss, myeloid-derived suppressor cell.
  • Huiping Zhou, Ph.D.
    The cellular/molecular mechanisms of HIV protease inhibitor-associated dysregulation of lipid metabolism and atherosclerosis.

Affiliate Faculty

  • Harry D. Bear, M.D. - Surgical Oncology
    Tumor immunology, suppressor T cells.
  • James C. Burns, DDS, Ph.D. - Chair of Oral Pathology
    Oral virology and oral cancer.
  • Sumitra Deb, Ph.D. - Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics
    Molecular biology of the human tumor suppressor p53.
  • Swati Palit Deb, Ph.D. - Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics
    Growth regulatory mechanisms of normal cells, particularly those deregulated during oncogenesis.
  • Gordon D. Ginder, M.D. - Director, Massey Cancer Center
    Regulation of genes critical to blood diseases, cancer and lymphocyte effector function by epigenetic mechanisms and interferons.
  • Steven Grant, M.D. - Internal Medicine, Hematology/Oncology
    Tumor biology. Modulation of anti-leukemic drug action and apoptosis by signal transduction events.
  • Chris Kepley, PhD, MBA - Luna nanoWorks
    Using endofullerences for imaging atherosclerotic plaque, brain cancers, and neurodegenerative disease. Developing empty-cage fullerene derivatives into therapies for asthma, allergy and arthritis.
  • Geoffrey W. Krystal, M.D., Ph.D. - Internal Medicine, Hematology/Oncology
    Molecular biology of oncogenes, specifically the regulation of transcription and RNA processing of the myc gene family.
  • Luiz Shozo Ozaki, Ph.D. - Bioinformatics & Bioengineering
    Comparative genomics for studying pathogenicity and phylogeny of parasitic protozoa.
  • Lawrence F. Povirk, M.D. - Pharmacology & Toxicology
    DNA damage and mutagenesis, DNA double-strand break repair and gene rearrangements in mammalian cells. Mutagenic effects of DNA-directed chemotherapeutic agents.
  • Kristoffer Valerie, Ph.D. - Radiation Oncology
    Molecular biology of DNA repair, radiation-induced gene expression and signal transduction mechanisms and genetic approaches to modulate cellular radioresistance.

Relevant Courses Offered

  • MICR 505 Immunobiology - A survey of immunobiology as a total host response to foreign agents.
  • MICR 686 Advanced Immunology - Topics in tumor immunology, cell interactions and genetics in the immune response.
  • MICR 607 Techniques in Molecular Biology and Genetics.
  • MICR 605 Molecular Biology and Genetics.
  • MICR 653 Advanced Molecular Genetics
  • MICR691 Molecular Biology of Cancer
  • Immunology Journal Club - Tumor immunology, cell interactions and genetics in the immune response.
  • MBG Journal Club - Various topics in molecular biology & genetics.

Department of Microbiology and Immunology Virginia Commonwealth University VCU Medical Center