Wells Research Lab
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common form of skin cancer, with more than 250,000 new cases a year estimated in the United States. Infection with the human papillomaviruses (HPVs) and expression of the two viral oncogenes E6 and E7 are one well defined cause.
The high-risk HPV types cause anogenital malignancies such as cervical cancer and a substantial proportion of head and neck cancers. The HPV vaccine Gardasil reduces disease burden, but its high cost, dosing regimen and the lack of protection for individuals already infected pose major obstacles to the field. Therapeutic vaccines and effective antivirals are not yet available.
The goal of our studies is to advance our understanding of both HPV-related and -unrelated SCC development, and to develop new approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of HPV as a major cause of cancer worldwide.
Two major areas of investigation in the laboratory focus on:
- Mechanisms by which the HPV oncogenes subvert the host cell machinery to promote abnormal cell growth and cancer
- The role of specific cellular HPV targets in viral replication and cellular transformation. Model systems utilized include primary human and murine cells and tumors, three-dimensional organotypic epithelial rafts and mouse models of cancer.
More recent studies are focused on the role of specific cellular proteins that were previously identified in the HPV context in the development and metastasis of human and murine breast cancer.