Piro Lito, M.D., Ph.D.

The Lito lab investigates how oncoproteins, including KRAS proteins, drive lung cancer, and aims to identify novel therapies for this disease. Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related mortality in men and women, and close to 25 percent of these cases can be attributed to mutations in the KRAS protein. KRAS, a driver of signaling involved in cell proliferation, normally cycles between an active and inactive state. However, when a mutation occurs, KRAS becomes predominantly active and drives the cell to divide uncontrollably. Using drugs that trap mutant KRAS in an inactive state, our group will dissect the biochemical and cellular events that contribute to lung cancer growth. Furthermore, we will examine the heterogeneity that exists within cells in a tumor, potentially leading to an understanding of why tumors only partially respond to treatment. We will combine single-cell sequencing methods along with biosensor technologies to map how different tumor populations respond to therapy. Work on these studies could offer new insight into the cellular diversity within tumor populations and help develop combination treatment strategies that attack all KRAS variant cells within a tumor, leading to more effective treatments for lung cancer.

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