The goal of our research is to understand cellular responses to DNA damage
UV light, γ-radiation, and certain chemicals contribute significantly to the incidence of cancer and other genetic diseases in humans. In the case of carcinogenic chemicals, most are converted by cellular enzymes to reactive forms, which form covalent adducts with the constituent nucleotides of DNA. Some of the resulting adducts, if unrepaired, can induce mutations, and it is believed that these genetic events represent the first step in the conversion of a normal cell into a cancer cell.
Genetic mutations are responsible for many human diseases, but they play a particularly critical role in the development of cancer. While hereditary mutations in specific genes have been determined to be important for certain cancers, somatic mutations from UV-, chemical- or radiation-damaged DNA are often related to environmental exposures that are preventable. A vast array of relevant data has been accumulated on DNA damage-related mutations in the last several decades, and we are beginning to understand the mechanism of such processes in great detail. This is the time not only for developing effective prevention strategies but also to design drugs that may reduce DNA damage and mutations, which would significantly reduce the incidence of human cancers.