The major reason for the high mortality from cancer is that most cancers are diagnosed at an advanced stage, during which the tumor has metastasized to distant sites and the survival of patients is often minimal. Two potential approaches to reduce cancer mortality are the use of chemopreventive agents, naturally occurring or synthetic compounds that stop or reverse tumorigenesis, and early diagnosis. The Kassie lab focuses on identification and development of cancer chemopreventive agents and markers for the early detection of cancer. For this, we use genomic, proteomic, cell culture and animal models and clinical trials. Specific areas of focus are as outlined below.
Inhibition of lung tumorigenesis by chemopreventive agents. We are interested in developing chemopreventive agents that could be used by current or former smokers to prevent the development of lung cancer. Candidate agents are first screened in vitro for anti-neoplastic effects using primary, transformed, and cancerous pulmonary cells. Promising compounds are tested in mouse models of lung cancer and those that show high efficacy and less toxicity will be further studied in clinical trials. Parallel to the prevention study, we attempt to identify microRNAs, genes, and proteins whose levels are modulated by chemopreventive agents. These studies could identify markers for the chemopreventive effect of the test compounds in cancer prevention clinical trials, for early detection of cancer and to better understand the molecular mechanism of action of chemopreventive agents.
Chemoprevention of spontaneously developing cancers in companion animals. The relatively high incidence of some cancers, similar biologic behavior, large body size, comparable responses to therapeutic agents, and shorter overall lifespan are the factors that contribute to the advantages of the companion animal model. These studies could provide important models to understand the biology of human malignancies and develop new preventive/therapeutic agents, while also improving care for humankind’s best friends—dogs and cats. Our aim is to: (1) test the efficacy of different chemopreventive agents against hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma in the golden retriever, a breed especially susceptible to developing hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma, and (2) identify genes/proteins that play a role in the metastasis of canine osteosarcoma to the lungs. Once these genes/proteins are known, the efficacy of naturally occurring or synthetic agents to modulate expression level of metastasis-related genes/proteins and inhibit cell migration, invasion and metastasis is assessed using in vitro and orthotropic models, and dogs with osteosarcoma. The long-term goal is to come up with lead compounds that could prevent pulmonary metastasis of osteosarcoma.
Fekadu Kassie, D.V.M. Ph.D.
Office phone: 612-625-9637
Lab phone: 612-625-8414