Research Programs

The University of Illinois Cancer Center’s research is well-funded by the National Cancer Institute and is built on a “Community to Bench” model that not only engages the community but actively involves them in developing research and treatment options.

We have more than 115 full members and nearly 90 associate members who are vigorously engaged in exploring and understanding the totality of intersecting issues that trigger cancer – biology, race, ethnicity, gender, age, environment, lifestyle, geography, and socioeconomic status – so that they can discover and individualize approaches to better prevent and treat cancer and ensure long-term wellness after cancer.

Our researchers and physician-scientists conduct lab, translational, clinical and population sciences research that is organized under 3 research programs:

Cancer Prevention and Control

The CPC Program is co-led by Ardith Doorenbos PhD, RN, FAAN, and Lisa Tussing-Humphreys, PhD.

Ardith Doorenbos, PhD

Department: Biobehavioral Health Science

Lisa Tussing-Humphreys, PhD, MS, RD
Associate Professor

Department: Medicine – Academic Internal Med & Geriatr

The Cancer Prevention and Control (CPC) Program’s overarching goal is to identify cancer risk factors, prevent cancer and reduce cancer morbidity and mortality by supporting optimal cancer treatment, adherence, and survivorship to improve health outcomes with focus on tackling persisting cancer outcome disparities among the racial/ethnic minorities and underserved populations served by University of Illinois Cancer Center (UI Cancer Center). The CPC Program strives to achieve this goal through innovative, transdisciplinary collaborative research and effective partnering with University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) – owned Federally Qualified Health Centers and the diverse communities in the catchment area.

The CPC Program has the following 3 specific aims:

1) Identify new cancer risk factors by studying structural and individual determinants (behavioral, contextual, sociocultural, environmental, psychosocial, biological, and fiscal and policy) of cancer risk and cancer health disparities.

2) Develop and implement interventions to reduce cancer risk and cancer health disparities.

3) Develop and deploy innovative interventions, improve outcomes and achieve cancer health equity relevant to cancer management, treatment and survivorship.

Cancer Biology

The CB program is co-led by Nissam Hay, PhD, and Angela Tyner, PhD.

Nissim Hay, PhD

Department: Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics

Angela Tyner, PhD

Department: Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics

The scientific goal of the Cancer Biology (CB) Program at the University of Illinois Cancer Center is to understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms that underlie tumor initiation, progression, and metastasis. The CB investigators focus on how cancer cell behavior is mediated by signaling and metabolic pathways that impact the expression of genes and the interactions between the cancer cell and the tissue environment. A main objective of the CB Program is to make discoveries relating to the drivers of cancer growth and spread of cancer, with the important goal of identifying cancer vulnerabilities and new therapeutic targets.

The CB Program has the following 3 specific aims:

1) Determine how cancer metabolism and signaling pathways act individually and are integrated to drive cancer development and progression, identifying new vulnerabilities of cancer

2) Determine how signaling is relayed to transcriptional control through direct and epigenetic mechanisms, and how genome integrity is compromised, to drive the cancer phenotype of cancer

3) Identify mechanisms by which cancer cells interact with the local extracellular matrix and stromal cells, and inflammatory and vascular systems to allow for invasion and metastasis.

Translational Oncology

The TO program is co-led by Vijayakrishna Gadi, MD, PhD, and Ajay Rana, PhD.

Vijayakrishna Gadi, MD, PhD
Associate Director, Translational Medicine
Ajay Rana, PhD

Department: Surgery

The Translational Oncology (TO) Program at the University of Illinois Cancer Center (UICC) brings together teams of investigators who conduct research along the translational continuum that range from mechanistic studies, validation of therapeutic targets and disease biomarkers for cancer therapy and chemoprevention, to clinical trials that explore opportunities for personalized medicine.

The TO Program represents a group of investigators connected by the common interest of translating laboratory research discoveries into clinical trials with the potential to impact cancer outcomes within the catchment area and beyond.

The TO Program has the following 3 specific aims:

1) Identification and analysis of molecular determinants of cancer health disparity

2) Identification, validation, and development of targets for cancer therapy with an emphasis on signaling in hormone-responsive and gynecological cancer.

3) Advancing therapeutic approaches to cancer through drug development and early-stage clinical trials.