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Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer CenterVanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center

Peng  Liang

Peng Liang, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Contact Information:

Vanderbilt University Medical Center
658 Preston Building
Nashville, 37232-6838,

Research Specialty

Molecular mechanism of cancer and skin inflammation

Research Description

Cancer is a disease state that involves multiple genetic alterations leading to unregulated cell proliferation. A variety of different cancers exist, and numerous oncogenes and several tumor- suppressor genes have been found. The focus of this laboratory is to understand the common biochemical pathway that controls cell growth, which is disrupted in many different cancers.

The identification of mutations in both tumor-suppressor gene p53 and oncogene Ras in a broad spectrum of cancers, and the finding that mutations in these two genes are sufficient to transform mammalian cells, provide us with an excellent model system to approach the problem. It has been proposed that the biological function of p53, either alone or in concert with other oncogenes such as Ras, is to regulate the expression of a subset of genes that are central in cell growth control. We have been using Differential Display technology that we developed and automated to identify and clone these genes by comparing the messenger RNAs between the normal cells versus those transformed by mutations in p53 and Ras. A full array of modern methodologies in molecular biology, immunology and cell biology are employed to functionally characterize these genes. Among these are p53 target genes including NDRG1, Tis11d, Cyphip2 and Killin, which is a key mediator of p53 in S-phase checkpoint control that controls apoptosis. Among ras target genes that we identified, most encode secreted proteins that are involved in either inflammation or cell-matrix adhesion. One of the new proinflammatory cytokines that we discovered is interluekin 24 which plays a central role in epidermal regeneration. The abnormality in IL-24 signaling is associated with skin diseases such as chronic wounds and psoriasis.