Dr. Janet Rader, Professor and Chair of the OBGYN Department, has great interest in the care of women and research. Dr. Rader has a dedicated space in the Human and Molecular Genetics Center (HMGC) to further her research along with scientists, PhDs, RNs, technicians and data analysts.
Infection with high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) is the primary cause of cervical cancer, but it is evident that additional events are involved in invasion and metastasis. Our laboratory employs a multidisciplinary approach for examination of both host and HPV genomic and epigenetic aberrations which may contribute to cervical cancer progression. It is our hope that these efforts may provide new targets for patient-tailored treatment strategies for women with cervical cancer and provide more meaningful prognostic indicators of clinical outcomes.
Defining HPV Integration for Identification of Novel Cervical Cancer Drivers: Integration of HPV into the host genome is thought to drive invasive cervical cancer via multiple mechanisms. One of our major research goals is to identify and characterize clinically-relevant genes/pathways from HPV integration signatures in cervical cancer that will improve individual treatment and outcome. We have recently began harnessing the data from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) project along with patient-matched long-read sequencing of HPV integration sites to define novel genes/pathways affecting cervical cancer outcome. In fact, our work on HPV integration spurred our interest in the long noncoding RNA, PVT1, as this gene was frequently targeted for HPV integration and had not been studied in the context of cervical cancer. Utilizing a variety of experimental methods, we demonstrated that PVT1 expression correlates with survival in cervical cancer patients, influences multiple cancer-related processes, and may contribute to chemoresistance. Thus, we expect that our ongoing annotation of HPV integrations cases will identify novel cervical cancer driver genes that we can subsequently test for functionality in vitro.
In addition to HPV integration patterns, our laboratory is also interested in other viral-based markers that may aid in development of reliable assays to assess cervical cancer patient prognosis. For example, we have recently published work demonstrating differential methylation of specific viral CpG sites in cervical precancer versus cancer. Further, our research has shown that specific HPV genetic variants associate with cervical cancer outcome. Collectively, our research on HPV integration and other viral biomarkers aims to find clinically-relevant prognostic and therapeutic targets for cervical cancer.
Other Research Interests: Developed and evaluating an 8-week summer program to train underrepresented minority students to work as clinical research professionals in complex multidisciplinary teams and prepare them for advanced degrees in cancer research. The program, Student-Centered Pipeline to Advance Research in Cancer Careers (SPARCC), engages students in real-world settings with diverse patient populations and provides additional career and education counseling opportunities. The program includes a Cancer Networking and Research Summit where students present a poster from their research work in the community.