We strive to combat cancer until it is cured one day.
The Jin Lab integrates multidisciplinary approaches to interrogate the molecular underpinnings of metastatic cancer and strives to find therapeutic targets for tackling this deadly disease.
Cancer arises from one’s own flesh. It is a result of genetic and epigenetic alterations that lead to uncontrollable cell proliferation. Cancer cells are built upon the gene circuitry written for their tissue lineages, but evolve on the oncogenic programs deviating from the normal cell state. Cancer cells co-evolve with the microenvironment they grow in, and evade surveillance from homeostasis machinery and immune guardians, acquiring malignant properties such as the metastatic potential.
Metastatic potential – the ability of cancer cells to invade, adapt, and outgrow in sites beyond their origin – is a hallmark of cancer, a lethal hallmark that accounts for 90% of patient deaths. Some cancers evolve to acquire such capacities during the course of cancer progression whereas others do not. It is poorly understood what underlies the growth preference of different cancers in different organ environments, which in turn can influence drug sensitivity and resistance development. Thus understanding the metastatic potential of a given cancer and its underlying molecular determinant is important for risk prediction and for treatment management for patients.
We are developing novel high-throughput technologies to create the 2nd generation Metastasis Map (MetMap) that describes a panorama of metastasis portraits at cellular, tissue, and organ scales for hundreds of human cancers. We integrate single cell and spatial genomics tools with machine learning to unveil the molecular drivers of metastatic potential.
We are harnessing cutting-edge CRISPR perturbation technologies to enable in vivo cancer dependency discovery. These in vivo screens are revealing unmarked oncotargets that underpin cancer survival and growth as cells adapt to the microenvironmental and nutritional constraints in different organs. The studies are expected to pinpoint targets with therapeutic index for precision medicine as the genetic, cellular, and environmental contexts vary.
Reconstructing Tumor Ecosystem
Having the ability to culture cancer cells outside of patient bodies provides a means for cancer mechanism exploration. Nevertheless, concerns have been raised regarding the relevance of such findings given that cell lines have been propagated for long in non-physiological conditions that lack the environmental and metabolic complexity as seen in actual tumors. We are establishing new capacities that overcome these limitations and that reconstruct key aspects of the tumor ecosystem in tissue culture. These newly engineered culture systems have the potential to bring physiological relevance to high-throughput genetic screening and drug screening.