Qinghua Feng, PhD
Research Assistant Professor
The main interest of the lab is to investigate epigenetic mechanism of carcinogenesis. Currently, we are focusing on two projects that are related to stem or progenitor cell biology. The first project involves circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and breast cancer biology. It is hypothesized that a small fraction of CTCs are tumor stem cells which have the ability to generate distant metastases. We have isolated and cultured CTCs from metastatic breast cancer patients, and are in the process to characterize markers expressed by these in vitro cultured CTCs to determine whether they express breast cancer stem cell markers through quantitative RT-PCR analysis. The second project involves hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). HCV infection can induce tumor stem-cell like signature. We have shown that specific epigenetic changes, such as p16 methylation, are associated with HCV infection caused HCC, and the polycomb histone methyltransferase EZH2 is overexpressed in HCC tissues compared to uninfected normal liver tissues. We are testing the hypothesis that HCV infection downregulates p16 via epigenetic mechanism, alleviate senescence regulation, increase hepatic progenitor cells proliferation, which subsequently contribute to hepatocarcinogenesis.