General Cancer Research

Cancer is a general term for more than 100 diseases in which abnormal cells divide uncontrollably, and invade neighboring tissues.

Cancer cells can also move around the body where they lodge in other tissues and form metastatic tumors. Cancer and tumor are terms that are often used interchangeably, but not all tumors are cancer. Because cancer can begin in any tissue of the body, the most effective treatments for each type of cancer varies. Scientists and clinicians continue to make advances in cancer prevention, detection, and treatment, and intense research in this field has dramatically improved the survival and quality of life for people diagnosed with cancer. Despite this, the battle continues to find safer and more effective treatments with less severe side effects. Researchers at Torrey Pines Institute are approaching this problem in a number of different ways. They are developing strategies to block and suppress critical events occurring inside the tumor cell, to cut off the tumor’s blood supply, to disrupt the cellular environment around the tumor, and/or to boost the body’s immune system to attack individual tumor cells. While these approaches often focus on one particular type of cancer, they invariably improve our understanding of other cancers. The work done by Torrey Pines Institute scientists is moving us toward the development of many different cancer treatments.

Dr. Ruth Gjerset is focused on understanding why some cancers develop resistance to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Her group is investigating at the molecular level some of the proteins and pathways that allow cancer cells to repair DNA and continue dividing. They have also identified abnormalities in these pathways that may be used as diagnostics assays for therapy resistance in many types of cancers. Learn more here…

Dr. Toni Ortiz is studying a family of heat shock factors (HSF) that regulate the cellular stress response. She is investigating at the molecular level how HSF regulate transcription of genes that enable malignant transformation. Her work aims to identify pathways that lead from a prolonged stress response to human disease and to discover novel therapies to prevent and treat cancer. Learn more here…

Dr. F. Javier Piedrafita is investigating the use of novel protein kinase (PK) inhibitors and ligands of nuclear hormone receptors (NHRs) for the chemoprevention and treatment of cancer. He uses the Institute's mixture libraries to discover novel PK inhibitors and NHR modulators, and will then select compounds for further preclinical evaluation. This project may identify novel drugs that could be advanced into the clinic.

Dr. Clemencia Pinilla and Dr. Richard Houghten collaborate with investigators at Torrey Pines Institute and other national and international research institutes to study a broad range of targets and pathways involved in the initiation and progression of cancer. They provide the Institute's mixture-based libraries and expertise to use for the identification of new drug leads.