Dr. Janet Rader, the Jack A. and Elaine D. Klieger Professor and Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, is a gynecologic oncologist with expertise in molecular, genetic, and clinical research. Her laboratory focuses on molecular features contributing to the risk and progression of cervical cancer.
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.
Enlisting HPV integration events to illuminate drivers and target treatment in invasive cervical cancer: Integration of HPV into the host genome drives 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 and HIV+ Tumor Molecular Characterization Project (HTMCP) 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. 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. Our goal is to define new therapeutic vulnerabilities comprising genes in pathways to improve individual patients’ treatments and outcomes.
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 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.
Student-Centered Pipeline to Advance Research in Cancer Careers (SPARCC): The 8-week summer program trains underrepresented minority students to work as clinical research professionals in complex multidisciplinary teams and prepare them for advanced degrees in cancer research. The program 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.