Scaffidi lab Cancer Epigenetics Laboratory

Epigenetic heterogeneity in cancer

We are investigating the processes that make cells misuse their DNA and forget their identity in cancer.

Although every cell in the body contains the same DNA, different cell types use distinct groups of genes to perform their specific roles. We are studying the tightly-regulated molecular processes, known as epigenetic mechanisms, that ensure the right genes are switched on at the right time and in the right place.

Every normal cell has to 'remember' which set of genes it needs to use, and it also has to transfer this knowledge to its 'daughters' when it divides. However, cancer cells lose their memory and begin to use genes inappropriately, leading to altered cell behaviour, uncontrolled growth and spreading around the body.

We are interested in understanding how epigenetic mechanisms work together with alterations in the underlying genetic code and faulty communication between cells to promote cancer. 

By combining lab techniques with mouse models and patient samples, we want to find out how cells switch their identity as a cancer starts, and how they diversify from one another while the cancer grows. We then use this knowledge to search for ways to manipulate these processes to treat cancer more effectively.