Thomas BelbinAssociate Professor and GSK Research Chair, Discipline of Oncology (Cross Appointment with the Division of Biomedical Sciences) B.Sc., Ph.D., Memorial
Oncology GSK Research Chair
Areas of Research:
Apoptosis and Cancer, Bioinformatics, Cancer Diagnosis and Detection, Cell Signaling and Cancer, Genomics, Head and Neck Cancer
Epigenetic/epigenomic regulation of gene transcription is an emerging frontier of science that directs functional processes in development as well as in disease states. One such disease is head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), a heterogeneous group of neoplasms arising from diverse anatomic locations including the oral cavity, oropharynx, hypopharynx, larynx and nasopharynx. Tumours originating from these different locations can exhibit varying phenotypic behavior that is not predictable by histopathology of the primary tumour but is discernable by other methods such as genomic profiling. Recently, almost half of all HNSCC have been shown to harbor human papillomavirus (HPV). In comparison to HPV-negative tumours, HPV-positive HNSCCs are more likely to be located within the oropharynx, poorly differentiated, and diagnosed at a late stage. Surprisingly, despite being more advanced at diagnosis, HPV-positive HNSCC is associated with better response to chemo-radiation therapy and longer survival than HPV-negative tumours. My research has also shown that each of these anatomic sites has a unique molecular signature that distinguishes clinically aggressive behavior from non-aggressive behaviour. A central hypothesis of my research program is that the global analysis of these epigenetic events can be used in the identification of novel tumor suppressor genes. Moreover, the molecular signatures observed in these tumor specimens can be used both as a prognostic biomarker and as a molecular classifier of this disease.
In order to provide effective treatment strategies, we will need to be able to predict, with high specificity and sensitivity, the tumour potential for metastasis, local recurrence, and patient response to therapy. Development of such a prediction tool will advance the field of personalized medicine. In addition, studies on novel tumor suppressor genes represent a new avenue of exploration for biological pathways affected in cancer.
Google Scholar: https://scholar.google.ca/citations?user=BowWBcIAAAAJ&hl=en
Current Financial Support:
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
Research and Development Corporation (InnovateNL)
2016-present: Associate Professor, Discipline of Oncology, Memorial University of Newfoundland
2008-2016: Associate Professor, Department of Pathology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
2002-2008: Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
2001-2002: Instructor in Pathology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
1999-2001: Postdoctoral Research Associate in Pathology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine.