Associate 2009-10

Sandra Luisa Rodriguez-Zas

Animal Sciences

Integrated Genomic and Epigenomic Analysis of Brain Cancer

The National Institutes of Health is spearheading a project that will compile a comprehensive catalog of the genomic architecture of cancer in humans. The catalog will include extensive information on both genetic (e.g., sequence variants, gene expression, copy number variation) and epigenetic (e.g., DNA methylation and histone modifications) differences between cancerous and noncancerous samples. As yet there is no public meta-analytical tool that integrates these different sources of genomic information. During her Center appointment, Professor Rodriguez-Zas will develop novel approaches to integrating multiple genomic reporters and use as proof of concept the systems underlying the glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) brain cancer.

Using data from the NIH project, Professor Rodriguez-Zas will explore three approaches: (a) meta-analysis of the changes in multiple types of reporters between normal and cancerous states; (b) meta-analysis of the actual reporter values from the individual samples; and (c) overlap of the list of reporters associated with cancer based on analysis of the reporters individually. She will characterize the advantages and disadvantages of each approach to uncover a more complete genomic panorama associated with GBM.

Her project will yield two immediate benefits. First, the results will bring additional insights into the genomic mechanisms associated with GBM and support research efforts to improve diagnosis and prognosis of the disease. Second, the comparative performance of her three approaches will help researchers decide how best to proceed when the available data is limited. Ultimately the project will provide a foundation to integrate genomic information in other scenarios, processes, and species – an advance that will vastly improve researchers’ understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying biological processes.