Most known genomic drivers of cancer are in coding genes, affecting the encoded protein’s interaction with other proteins, DNA or biological compounds. Recent advances in DNA sequencing technology have made it possible to study non-coding regions that regulate these protein-coding genes. Several cancer drivers have been identified and characterized in these regulatory regions, however, this genomic territory remains relatively unexplored in human tumors. The Rheinbay laboratory concentrates on identifying and functionally characterizing these non-coding drivers in the sequences of tumor whole genomes and epigenomes through development of novel analysis strategies and collaborations with experimental investigators.
We are also interested in tumors, especially breast cancers, for which no known protein-coding driver alterations have been found. In the age of targeted therapy, these tumors pose a special challenge in that they leave few treatment options for patients beyond conventional chemotherapy. We believe that finding novel genomic and epigenomic, protein-coding and regulatory therapeutic targets in these tumors will have significant clinical implications.