Norman L. Eberhardt, Ph.D., is interested in the pathogenesis of thyroid cancer in humans. The long-term goal of these studies is to identify genes that initiate and promote the progression of thyroid cancer as well as genes that suppress tumor formation. Identification of the genes will identify potential targets that can be exploited for the development of novel therapeutic agents.
Dr. Eberhardt's team utilizes the techniques of molecular biology to create cellular and animal model systems to study specific oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes that regulate thyroid cancer progression. Dr. Eberhardt's studies have been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the American Thyroid Association and private industry.
- Pax8/PPAR-gamma expression in follicular thyroid cancer. Follicular thyroid cancer is among the more aggressive cancers. A high percentage of these cancers have undergone a gene rearrangement that creates a fusion gene between two specific transcription factors, Pax8 and PPAR-gamma. Dr. Eberhardt and his team are interested in understanding the role of this putative oncogene in the initiation and progression of follicular thyroid cancer.
- Defining tumor suppressor pathways in thyroid cancer. Dr. Eberhardt's group has discovered that in addition to its potential role as an oncogene, Pax8/PPAR-gamma in certain cellular contexts has potent anti-tumor activity. They are defining the intracellular signaling pathways that mediate this anti-tumor response.
- Identification of biomarkers to distinguish benign follicular adenoma from follicular carcinoma. Current cytopathological detection methods cannot discriminate between benign and cancerous follicular neoplasms. Therefore, Dr. Eberhardt's team is endeavoring to identify molecular biomarkers that will enable a more accurate diagnosis.
Significance to patient care
Dr. Eberhardt's research in thyroid cancer will help to improve diagnosis of thyroid cancer, prevent unnecessary surgery for patients with benign disease, and identify targets that may be used to develop novel therapeutics for aggressive thyroid cancers that do not respond to current treatment strategies.