Research Professor, Biomedical Engineering; Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science
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I am primarily interested in developing novel therapeutics for the treatment of malignant brain tumors in adults and children. My focus is in elucidating the molecular mechanisms that underlie the expression of cell surface glycoconjugates: glycosphingolipids, glycosaminoglycans and glycoproteins (including cell surface adhesion molecules and growth factor receptors). Through the analysis of the aberrant expression patterns of tumor associated cell surface glycoconjugates, which occurs in virtually every vertebrate tumor, it has been possible to identify specific glyco-genes in tumor cells that too are aberrantly expressed. These glyco-genes have become targets for the development of novel therapeutics using viral vectors to up or down regulate these genes as well as develop a small molecules program aimed at modulating gene expression directly. To date we have developed a therapeutic candidate, a the N-linked alpha-2,6 sialyltransferase gene co-expressed in an oncolytic viral vector that will be used in human clinical trials. We have identified a number of other glycogene patterns of expression that may have therapeutic value in other cancers such as prostate, breast and lung. Hopefully by understanding how glyco-gene expression is regulated in both normal and tumor cells we can continue toward the development of novel and effective therapies especially for malignant brain tumors.