Aaron Tward, MD, PhD
Genomics of Tumors of the Head and Neck
We are interested in understanding the identity and function of the events that reprogram normal cells into tumor cells. Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is a morbid and frequently lethal disease. Despite years of research, the rate of survival following treatment of this disease has not substantially improved in the past 50 years. As a consequence, new approaches to treatment of this disease are necessary to improve patient outcomes. Together with our collaborators, we have identified a set of genes which when mutated contribute to the initiation and progression of HNSCC. However, our understanding of how these events arise and interact genetically and biochemically is far from complete. Our lab uses a combination of techniques including high throughput sequencing, computational biology, molecular biology, and biochemistry, to better understand the function of these mutations in the initiation, progression, and maintenance of HNSCC. We use in vitro models, in vivo models, and clinical samples in our analyses. We are particularly interested in the following questions:
- In what order do mutations arise in HNSCC?
- How many events are required for the transition from a normal cell to cancer?
- Which events are required for the maintenance of the cancer state?
- What is the nature of the alterations in cellular machinery and metabolism downstream of these mutations?
- Which molecular events predict poor outcomes in HNSCC?
- What is the identity and function of driver mutations in other tumors arising in the head and neck?
We are also interested in the development and maintenance of function in the auditory system.