VCU Massey Cancer Center


Cancer Molecular Genetics

Program leader
Jolene J. Windle, Ph.D.

VCU Massey Cancer Center’s Cancer Molecular Genetics (CMG) program consists of a multidisciplinary group of 26 investigators from 12 academic departments representing four schools. The central theme of the CMG program is to identify and characterize the critical genes and genetic and epigenetic alterations that promote or suppress cancer initiation, progression and therapeutic resistance, with the ultimate goal of translating this information to develop new strategies for more effective disease surveillance and more effective and less toxic treatments for cancers.  

Scientific goals

  • Identifying and functionally characterizing the key genes that contribute to cancer development by affecting immortalization, DNA synthesis, clonal dynamics, evasion of apoptosis and autophagy, invasion and metastasis, and angiogenesis
  • Determining the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms regulating expression of key genes in both normal and cancer cells
  • Identifying mechanisms by which genetic, epigenetic and immunologic processes in cancer cells can be exploited to selectively induce cancer cell death
  • Developing strategies for translating this knowledge into innovative approaches for the treatment of human cancers

The research projects addressing these goals fall into two major thematic areas: tumorigenesis and metastasis and gene expression and epigenetics, with a third developing thematic area, immunogenomics and the tumor microenvironment. Within each of these thematic areas, the scientific efforts are highly cancer-focused and range from basic discovery to translational and preclinical research.

CMG program members have many well-established and productive collaborations, which have resulted in multiple jointly funded research initiatives and high-impact publications. Half of the 400 publications from CMG program members in 2011-2015 involved collaborations with other Massey Cancer Center members (including greater than one-third with intra-programmatic and one-third with inter-programmatic collaborations). In addition, more than half involved inter-institutional collaborations.

The CMG program provides a highly interactive and collaborative research environment that facilitates scientific exchange within the program and with members of other programs. The CMG program is also strongly committed to mentorship of its junior faculty members, postdoctoral fellows and doctoral students to train the next generation of cancer biologists and therapists. Through these efforts, the CMG program creates a synergistic environment that promotes the success of its members to advance our scientific understanding of cancer and translate these advances into more effective preventative and therapeutic measures.