The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Departments of Head and Neck Surgery, Molecular and Cellular Oncology & Radiation Oncology
Dr. Lai is a Professor in the Department of Head and Neck Surgery at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and a board-certified head and neck cancer surgeon. His research program spans the basic and translational science spectrum. Dr. Lai collaborates with a diverse multidisciplinary team to identify novel therapeutic targets and approaches for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) and aggressive thyroid cancers, including anaplastic thyroid cancer (ATC). The laboratory is exploring the role of microRNA (miRNA), specifically miR-27a* (mir-27a-5p), in regulating HNSCC disease progression. This work has defined miR-27a* regulation of the EGFR-AKT1-mTOR pathway and a novel regulatory feedback loop involving P63 that is influenced by the mutational status of P53. We also utilize imaging techniques, including functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to assess tumor and normal tissue response to treatment. The use of dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI (DCE-MRI) to assess the effects of external beam radiation therapy on the mandible is helping to understand the natural history of osteoradionecrosis (ORN) in head and neck cancer patients. Also, metabolic interrogation through the use of hyperpolarized MRI (HP-MRI) to assess alterations in the rate of conversion of pyruvate to lactate has allowed Dr. Lai and his collaborators to assess the response of tumors to treatments, including radiation and chemotherapy. Dr. Lai integrates these research interests with active leadership in clinical trials to encourage rapid translation of laboratory research into the clinical setting.
Education & Training
MD, University of California, San Francisco, 1998
PhD, University of California, San Francisco, 1996