Based on this promise and potential of genomic medicine, the major areas of research emphasis in Greehey Children's Cancer Research Institute will be cancer genetics and molecular oncogenesis. The development of cancer involves a complex multi-step succession of molecular events involving acquisition of mutations in proto-oncogenes, tumor suppressor genes and other genes that control, directly or indirectly, cell proliferation, cell cycle control, and cell death. These acquired cellular changes which transform normal cells to become malignant include the ability of cells to generate their own mitogenic signals, resist growth-inhibitory signals, evade apoptosis, acquire vasculature, and proliferate without limits. Completion of the entire draft sequence of the human genome, coupled with advances in functional genomics and proteomics, and the use of genetically engineered mice have opened a new era of discovery of the basic mechanisms that are altered in the complex processes underlying carcinogenesis.
The goal of the molecular oncogenesis program of the institute is to identify and characterize the genes, gene products, and pathways involved in pediatric cancers, recognizing that the study of pediatric cancer models has relevance to the problem of cancer in general. We anticipate that half or more of all recruits to this institute will be basic cancer researchers in the areas of cancer genetics and molecular oncogenesis.