Research

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We are part of the Department of Cell and Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics at the Medical University of South Carolina. Dr. Yeh is also a member of the Developmental Cancer Therapeutics program at Hollings Cancer Center.

The overarching goal of the Yeh Lab is to examine the relationship between cellular signaling and the regulation of cell biological processes in human disease. Research in the Yeh lab is currently focused on investigating the mechanisms that drive the etiology and progression of breast cancer in order to identify curative treatments for this disease.

We are particularly interested in elucidating how targeting protein kinase directed signaling impacts cell biological processes to become over-activated or under-activated, thereby resulting in a therapeutic effect. The Yeh Lab currently pursues this avenue of investigation by studying a novel AMPK-related protein kinase called Hormonally Up-regulated Neu-associated Kinase (HUNK) whose function we have determined to be critical in the etiology and progression of human breast cancer. However, the intracellular function of this kinase is still poorly understood.

Our findings demonstrate that Hunk regulates cellular signaling via activation of two of the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor family members EGFR and HER2. Downstream signaling of these receptors is mediated by Hunk resulting in changes in cell survival. Our data indicates that through mechanisms that are related to EGFR/HER2 signaling, as well as those that are potentially un-related, Hunk regulates cell survival by apoptosis and autophagy. Moreover, Hunk potentially feeds back to EGFR by regulating this receptor’s turnover through endocytosis. Armed with these observations, we strive to elucidate the relationship between these functions of Hunk—apoptosis, autophagy, and endocytosis– that we have uncovered.

Our recent finding that Hunk participates in the two important membrane trafficking pathways: endocytosis and autophagy, is critical because these processes have been implicated not only in human cancer but a wide spectrum of human diseases including neurological disorders, pathogenic infection, cystic fibrosis, obesity and inflammation.

Additional areas of interest include drug discovery and therapeutics. The lab is currently building its breast cancer research program in part through collaborative interactions with groups, such as FirstString Research Inc. , to identify and test novel breast cancer therapeutics.

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