Blog: Decoding the Research

One Person’s Junk is Another’s Treasure

Published: April 15th, 2014

Dr. Subhajyoti De is focused on uncovering cancer-causing mutations in the human genome.

At a young age, Dr. De (then just Subho) had an insatiable curiosity about the world around him. His scientific career started early on with the question, “Why do we get diseases?” Pursuit of the answer to that question motivated him to get his PhD in Genomics and Computational Biology at the University of Cambridge in the UK and focus on cancer research. He chose to tackle the biggest cancer killer in the word, lung cancer.

After a postdoctoral fellowship at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute / Harvard University, Dr. De started a cancer genome informatics group at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus where he is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine.

Still dedicated to understanding why and how cancer develops, Dr. De’s research focuses on identifying mutations that drive cancer initiation and growth. Despite decades of research, the critical genetic changes that cause lung cancer are not known for a considerable number of lung cancer patients. Dr. De’s research program will hopefully help those patients who have no targeted treatment options.

Until recently, lung cancer researchers focused on identifying mutations primarily in protein coding regions of DNA, which represent less than 2% of the genome. The non-coding regions that make up the remaining 98% were previously thought of as ‘junk DNA’. But, we now know that those regions have important functions regulating the expression of the 21,000 genes in the human genome – and mutations in those regions may have a role in causing cancer.

Uniting Against Lung Cancer is supporting Dr. De’s work developing innovative techniques to uncover novel mutations in non-coding regions of lung cancer genomes.

 “This funding from UALC will help us pursue an important research question – can we identify novel mutations outside protein coding regions that would help stratify lung cancer patients and benefit treatment options?"

Dr. De’s grant from Uniting Against Lung Cancer is cosponsored by Elliot’s Legacy and Joan’s Legacy, two groups who have come together through UALC to support the best and brightest in lung cancer research.

 “I am very grateful for the support of Elliot’s Legacy, Joan’s Legacy and Uniting Against Lung Cancer,” said Dr. De. “Organizations like UALC are a direct bridge between researchers and the people whom our efforts will ultimately help. It makes people realize the impact of what we do in the lab and the investment we are making for future generations. At the same time, it drives researchers like us to make a difference.

If our work makes an impact on the treatment and quality of life of lung cancer patients - that will be my best reward.”

Join Dr. De and share what motivates you today. 

Support lung cancer research by donating here.