Dr. Wenliang Li
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
McGovern Medical School
Institute of Molecular Medicine
Dr. Wenliang Li’s research is to study novel molecular mechanisms of metastasis with the goal of identifying new biomarkers and drug targets for the development of better therapeutics for human cancers.
Metastasis is still poorly understood and the current approaches to prevent or treat human metastatic diseases are mostly unsuccessful. Through genomics, RNAi and cDNA functional screens, Dr. Li has identified several human genes that may play important but previously unknown roles in cancer metastasis. One of the research programs in his lab is to investigate the signaling pathways and molecular mechanisms of these interesting candidates using molecular, cell biology, biochemistry, genomics, proteomics and mouse models.
Another exciting research program in Dr. Li’s lab is involved in identifying and studying human genes (kinases in particular) as novel regulators of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and stem cell phenotypes. Kinases play central roles in many aspects of signaling transduction, cell physiology and diseases. They are also one of the most important gene families for cancer drug development. Our literature search indicated that the majority of >700 kinases in human kinome are still poorly studied. Dr. Li’s lab is employing unbiased functional screens against human kinome to identify kinases as novel regulators of EMT and linking them to stem cell phenotypes and metastasis. Investigation of the molecular mechanisms of these kinases will have a significant impact in expanding our knowledge in the crossroad of exciting and critical areas, such as development, stem cell, drug resistance and metastasis. These kinases may become new biomarkers and cancer drug targets for the development of novel therapeutics for human cancer.
Rotation students will participate in studies to investigate molecular mechanisms for some of the new critical regulators. We have obtained inhibitors for some of these regulators, which will also allow rotation students to perform experiments pertaining to the development of new cancer therapeutics. Working with cancer clinicians, rotation students will also have the opportunity to learn and participate in translational oncology projects, such as capturing circulating tumor cells (CTCs) from cancer patients’ blood and performing next generation sequencing (NGS) analysis on genomic DNAs from tumor biopsies and CTCs to help guiding treatments (Precision Medicine). These studies will provide rotation students ample training in genomics, proteomics, epigenetics, bioinformatics, signal transduction, mouse models of cancer, and development of molecular therapeutics.