Research

We study how to better detect, monitor, and treat head and neck cancers

The overarching goal of our research is to translate findings from the laboratory to clinical advancements that address the most pressing problems faced by head and neck cancer patients.

The lab’s efforts are centered on three overlapping arenas

Improving early detection, treatment monitoring and personalizing treatment decision making in head and neck cancer using liquid biopsy

The field of liquid biopsy is rapidly evolving as a method for understanding both clinical and basic cancer biology questions. Our lab is developing and studying blood-based diagnostics to improve how we detect, diagnose, and monitor head and neck cancers. We are currently prospectively evaluating liquid biopsies in comparison to standard of care approaches such as cross-sectional imaging and tissue biopsy, in our lab, and in collaboration with industry partners.

Understanding mutation acquisition and host-viral interactions in human papilloma virus (HPV)-associated head and neck cancer

A subset of head and neck cancers are caused by HPV. HPV associated cancers behave differently than non-virally mediated head and neck cancers and are increasing in prevalence, surpassing cervical cancer as the most common HPV associated malignancy in the U.S. Despite this, little is known regarding the details of how HPV causes mutations in the DNA of developing cancer cells, or how different variations of the virus, impact how the cancer develops and behaves. Our research aims to elucidate this process, including how HPV leads to host mutations and how features specific to the virus dictate the behavior of the tumor. Understanding these basic processes is vital to improving early detection, treatment, and biomarker discovery. 

Defining how the genomic and immunogenomic landscape of head and neck cancers impacts tumor behavior and response to treatment

Cancer therapeutics such as checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy are now standard of care in certain advanced head cancers. However, similar to other head and cancer therapeutics, they are effective only in a limited percentage of patients. Our research is focused on understanding how the tumor and immune microenvironment changes across time and treatment. To do so, we are utilizing cutting edge single cell sequencing and imaging approaches in tumor samples before and after therapeutic perturbations to identify critical alterations that drive treatment response and resistance.