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Charles Ishak

Charles Ishak

Regular Member

Assistant Professor

[email protected]
MD Anderson SCRB 4

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center at Houston
Department of Epigenetics & Molecular Carcinogenesis

The Ishak laboratory explores contributions of repetitive DNA sequences in cancer initiation, progression, and therapeutic response with the overarching goal of improving cancer immunotherapies and developing novel approaches for cancer interception and immunoprevention. Towards this mission, the lab strives to translate basic research discoveries into clinical trials.

To study repetitive elements in cancer, the Ishak lab unites basic scientists, clinicians, and computational biologists who characterize archived patient tissues and primary cells to obtain direct insights into human disease. Characterizations typically involve modeling cancer-initiating events in cell-of-origin systems, and identifying associated transcriptional- and epigenetic changes that facilitate tumorigenesis. The lab uses preclinical models to uncover interactions between cancer precursor cells and the immune system, and to test strategies that target repetitive elements as cancer therapies.

Current projects explore how repetitive elements promote ovarian high grade serous carcinoma (HGSC) initiation. The tumor suppressor gene TP53 encodes the p53 tumor suppressor protein and is almost universally inactivated as an initiating event in HGSC and many other cancer types. Recent work implicates p53 in the silencing repetitive elements through mechanisms that remain poorly understood. The lab’s current projects explore the mechanistic relationships between TP53 mutations, chromatin regulation, repetitive elements, ‘viral mimicry’ responses to repetitive element-derived dsRNA, HGSC initiation, and HGSC premalignancy.

Tutorials will introduce fundamental molecular biology skills that include CRISPR-based modeling of cancer initiation, cloning, protein expression, protein purification, characterization of RNA and protein expression, epigenetic profiling techniques (such as CUT&RUN), in vivo work with preclinical models, and computational skills acquisition through departmental collaborations.


Ishak Lab

Education & Training

PhD, University of Western Ontario, 2017