The purpose of my research at the Ching Lau Lab is to examine genomic and epigenomic data from pediatric cancers in order to discover molecular phenotypes, prognostic biomarkers, and candidate therapeutic targets. My work includes method and pipeline development for integration of multi-omic data in the analysis of pediatric brain and bone tumors to develop a better molecular understanding of these often-lethal cancers. Currently, my research focuses on osteosarcoma, ependymoma, and intracranial germ cell tumors.
Baylor College of Medicine
Ph.D., Quantitative and Computational Biosciences
Adv: Dr. Ching Lau
University of Michigan
B.S.E., Biomedical Engineering
Osteosarcoma is the most common malignant bone tumor in children and young adults. Despite the use of surgery and multi-agent chemotherapy, osteosarcoma patients who have a poor response to chemotherapy or develop relapses have a dismal outcome. Identification of biomarkers for active disease may help to monitor tumor burden, detect early relapses, and predict prognosis in these patients. In this study, we examined whether circulating miRNAs can be used as biomarkers in osteosarcoma patients. We performed genome-wide miRNA profiling on a discovery cohort of osteosarcoma and control plasma samples. A total of 56 miRNAs were upregulated and 164 miRNAs were downregulated in osteosarcoma samples when compared to control plasma samples. miR-21, miR-221 and miR-106a were selected for further validation based on their known biological importance. We showed that all three circulating miRNAs were expressed significantly higher in osteosarcoma samples than normal samples in an independent cohort obtained from the Children's Oncology Group. Furthermore, we demonstrated that miR-21 was expressed significantly higher in osteosarcoma tumors compared with normal bone controls. More importantly, lower expressions of miR-21 and miR-221, but not miR-106a, significantly correlated with a poor outcome. In conclusion, our results indicate that miR-21, miR-221 and miR-106a were elevated in the circulation of osteosarcoma patients, whereas tumor expressions of miR-21 and miR-221 are prognostically significant. Further investigation of these miRNAs may lead to a better prognostic method and potential miRNA therapeutics for osteosarcoma.