Current Research

Current research focus and ongoing cancer studies

Cancer is a complex disease that is caused by multiple factors. Deficits in DNA repair capacity (DRC) are known to cause certain familial breast cancers, and dysregulation of DRC develops with progressive carcinogenesis. However, the effect of DRC on carcinogenesis of sporadic breast tumors has not been well characterized—and the factors associated with DRC variability are still poorly understood. DNA repair is integral to maintaining genomic integrity, and carcinogenesis occurs when efficient, effective DNA repair is impaired. Thus, we believe that studying DRC in women without and with breast cancer (BC) will provide critical new information to help predict breast cancer risk and its risk of recurrence. The main focus of the DNA repair laboratory is to identify phenotypic, epigenetic, and epidemiological factors that can be used as diagnostic or prognostic indicators for improving human health in relation to  cancer prevention and therapy. This overall goal, is being pursued through separate studies aimed at:

 A)     What is the role of DNA repair as a risk factor for breast and skin cancer?

 B)     Identification of genetic, epigenetic and environmental factors that are associated with interindividual variability in DNA repair capacity in humans (in collaboration with Dr. Julie Dutil, Ponce School of Medicine and Health Sciences).

C)     Identifying key DNA repair genes by microarray analysis associated with a significant change in risk of developing in breast and skin cancer (in collaboration with Dr. Erick Suarez, UPR School of Public Health, Dr. Manuel Bayona, USFDA, Dr. Wynn Kao, George Washington School of Medicine).

D)    Study of two epigenetic mechanisms associated with a dysregulation of DNA repair capacity in humans (in collaboration with Dr. Rafael Guerrero and Dr. David Sidransky, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine).

E)     Study the association between hormone receptor status and a low DNA repair capacity in women with breast cancer.

F)     Obtain epidemiological data from participants in order to determine risk factors for breast cancer and how these are associated with DNA repair capacity(in collaboration with Dr. Manuel Bayona, Dr. Carolina Alvarez, USFDA).

Other cancer research projects are being developed by doctoral students using epidemiological, toxicological and psychological approaches. These include:

1)     Genotoxicity assessment of selected essential oils in mammalian cell lines (Ph.D. thesis, Carmen Ortiz, Dr. J. Matta, mentor)

2)     The association between educational level, DRC and risk of breast cancer (Dr.Ph.thesis, Luisa Morales, Dr. M. Bayona, Dr. C. Alvarez, Dr. J. Matta, mentors)

3)     Genetic and Epigenetic Variations in DNA Repair Genes and Breast Cancer Risk (Ph.D. thesis, Dr. J. Dutil, mentor, Dr. J. Matta, co-mentor)

4)     Psycho-oncology: The needs of cancer patients and their caregivers (Ph.D. thesis, Psy.D. Program, Elizabeth Guadalupe)