Molecular Oncology (MONC) Program

Emily Wang, Ph.D., Co-leader
Binghui Shen, Ph.D., Co-leader
Program Members -If you would like an updated membership list, please contact Kim Lu at
The overall scientific vision of theMolecularOncologyProgram (MONC)is to investigate fundamental DNA and RNA biology for the purpose of understanding basic mechanisms of cancer and ultimately identifying potential new therapeutic approaches. The major emphasis is on understanding the biology of cancer cells, which is accomplished by investigating the development of cancer, studying the biological mechanisms of cancer development, discovering information on key targets for cancer therapy, and developing advanced technologies used in cancer research.
Investigations into the mechanisms of DNA damage and repair mechanisms form one foundation of this program and are relevant to cancer development. Changes in cellular gene expression that accompany tumor growth are equally important to cancer progression. Studies of DNA methylation and epigenetics represent a second strong component of the program. Investigators studying transcriptional and post-transcriptional mechanisms of gene regulation contribute yet another dimension to this program. Changes in gene expression during cancer cell progression can result in a variety of events that promote uncontrolled cellular growth. These include altered splicing patterns and disregulation of the microRNA population, both of which lead to additional alterations in gene expression. Nuclear receptors and transcription factors have traditionally been important chemotherapeutic targets; theMolecular Oncologyprogram includes a group of investigators studying these important macromolecules and their ligands.

Program Goals
  • Understand the relationship between DNA damage and repair, mutagenesis, and carcinogenesis at the molecular level.
  • Investigate the fundamental processes underlying gene regulation, epigenetics and RNA biology during cell lineage commitment and tumor formation.
Members' Research
Members of theMolecular OncologyProgram have expertise in diverse areas of basic cancer biology that include chromatin structure, receptor-mediated control of gene expression, regulation of transcription by tissue- and cell-specific transcription factors, small drug interactions with and modulation of DNA and RNA function, cell signaling mechanisms, regulation of RNA processing, and the use of epigenetic tools such as siRNA and ribozymes to modulate gene expression. These basic science studies provide the foundation for future development of novel approaches to cancer therapy by the DCT, CI and HM Programs.