The Whitehurst Lab uses RNAi-based functional genomics to identify gene products that support viability and/or modulate chemotherapeutic sensitivity in tumor cells. Using this strategy, we discovered that tumor cells can depend on aberrantly activated gametogenic genes for survival.

Activation of gametogenic genes is a hallmark of cancer

Tumors frequently express genes that are otherwise restricted to gametogenic tissues, including the ovary, placenta, and testis. This group of ~150 genes, known as cancer-testes antigens (CT-antigens) or cancer-germline genes, were originally identified by the humoral immune response they invoked in cancer patients. Activation of a number of these genes can portend poor survival.

Significantly, the biased expression pattern of CT-antigens affords the potential for an extraordinary therapeutic window, if they are required for tumor cell proliferation and survival. However, little is known regarding the role of these proteins in tumors cells.

Our group investigates the contribution of these aberrantly expressed proteins to tumorigenic behaviors. We use a combination of functional genomics, proteomics, biochemistry, cell biology, and whole-animal approaches to understand how these proteins may be essential for tumorigenic behaviors.

Videos and interviews about our research

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The Whitehurst lab is seeking energetic, dedicated graduate students and post-doctoral fellows to join our groups. Please see below for current projects.