Jianning Tao, PhD, Lab
Primary Research Focus
Jianning Tao, PhD, and his team at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls investigate the genetic pathways that affect skeletal health and diseases. In particular, the team is focused on understanding the role of Notch signaling pathway in the maintenance of bone cancer stem cells and metastasis. The goal is to better understand how the genetic pathways work together to promote spread of cancer cells and then to find a way to treat the disease.
Behind the research
Osteosarcoma (OS) is the most common form of bone cancer, usually affecting adolescents and young adults. The survival rate for OS patients has not improved substantially over the past four decades. The understanding of the genetic factors and pathways critical for OS formation and metastasis is still limited.
Evolutionarily conserved genetic pathways are central mechanisms in embryogenesis and postnatal homeostasis, and they are frequently hijacked during tumorigenesis at various stages including tumor initiation, progression, maintenance of cancer stem cells and metastasis. For example, Notch signaling pathway controls cell fate determination, proliferation, differentiation and apoptosis whereas deregulation of Notch signaling characterizes several types of human cancers.
The recent work in Dr. Tao’s lab at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, reveals a critical role for Notch activation as a cause of murine OS and advances our understanding of osteosarcomagenesis. The lab uses genetically engineered animal models that recapitulate the development of human OS to address two fundamental questions:
Mouse tumors and primary cell lines derived from these models will be studied and expression profiling, sequencing and proteomic analyses will be employed. At the same time, Dr. Tao’s lab is also interested in investigating tumor cells of origin and genetic interaction among evolutionarily conserved pathways.
The long-term goal is to better understand requirement for critical genetic factors and pathways in tumorigenesis, to advance our knowledge of cancer stem cell, and to provide novel diagnostic biomarkers and more effective targeted therapies against childhood cancer.