Current research of the White Laboratory at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey has focused on translational research modulating the apoptosis pathway for cancer therapy and on the role of autophagy and cellular metabolism in cancer progression and treatment. The White group discovered that tumor cells activate the cellular self-cannibalization process of autophagy to survive the stress of tumor growth. This was the first demonstration that autophagy is a cancer survival mechanism for solid tumors and that inhibition of autophagy may be a novel approach to improve solid tumor therapy.
In collaboration with the laboratory of Dr. Josh Rabinowitz at Princeton University the White group went on to demonstrate that tumor cells require autophagy to sustain tumor metabolism and survival. In Ras-driven cancers, autophagy is induced and critical for tumor growth. In models of Ras-driven lung cancer, autophagy is required for progression to aggressive carcinomas, as autophagy blockade causes lung tumors instead to progress to benign oncocytomas. Thus, autophagy promotes the growth and progression of lung cancer to aggressive disease, and autophagy inhibition is a novel means to suppress lung tumor growth and divert progression to benign disease. Clinical trials to test this concept are underway.
The White Lab is supported by the following grants: