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Shair Lab

Principal Investigator

Kathy H.Y. Shair, PhD

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1.8 Hillman Cancer Center

5117 Centre Avenue

Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Research Description

Cancer is a complex disease with multiple etiologies including host, environmental and microbial factors.  It is estimated that more than 15% of all human cancers are associated with a viral infection.  We study the oncogenic mechanisms of the gamma-herpesvirus, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).  EBV is the first discovered human tumor virus.  Infection in humans is ubiquitous and some individuals are at risk of developing EBV-associated cancer.  Nearly 200,000 EBV-associated new cancer cases are diagnosed per year worldwide.  These include immuno-competent (nasopharyngeal carcinoma, gastric carcinoma, Hodgkin lymphoma, Burkitt lymphoma) and immuno-suppressed (post-transplant and AIDs-associated lymphomas) cancers.  There is currently no FDA-approved prophylactic vaccine that can prevent EBV infection.  The Shair lab studies EBV molecular pathogenesis in nasopharyngeal carcinoma and some immunocomprimised B-cell neoplasms.  In one project, we aim to elucidate the molecular mechanism by which viral proteins, such as latent membrane protein 1 (LMP1) and LMP2A, interfere with the DNA damage response.  To overcome the challenge of rare detection of EBV infection in the nasopharynx before the onset of cancer, we have also developed 3D epithelial culture models of the nasopharynx to study early events during de novo infection.  Furthermore, we have a project using human serum as a form of liquid biopsy to search for EBV serological biomarkers in patients who develop NPC.  Using a combination of molecular virology, molecular genetics and cell-based techniques, our projects help to define EBV molecular pathogenesis and possible risk factors for EBV-associated cancers.

Lab Members:

Sarita Paudel - Postdoctoral Scholar

Phillip Ziegler - Technician

Alex Reznik - Undergraduate Researcher

Shweta Kitchloo - PSTP rotation student