The research interests of Thai H. Ho, M.D., Ph.D., involve the blueprints of cells, which are encoded in DNA strands (its genome) and highly compressed to fit into a tiny cell. The reading (epigenome) of these DNA blueprints determines whether that cell will develop into a kidney cell, for example, or another type of cell.
However, in cancer, errors occur either in the blueprints themselves or in the reading of the blueprints. Studies have revealed that in more than 50 percent of kidney cancers, mutations occur in genes that regulate how the DNA blueprints are compacted, making these genes as a group the most frequently mutated.
- Epigenetics. Mapping the epigenomic changes in a tumor that drive tumor progression. Dr. Ho collaborates with Keith D. Robertson, Ph.D., to analyze genome-wide epigenetic changes in kidney tumors.
- Drug repurposing. Defining how these epigenomic changes lead to cancer metastases and how they can be targeted with existing drugs using high-throughput drug screens. Dr. Ho collaborates with the Developmental Therapeutics Program and Nathalie Meurice, Ph.D., to screen small molecule libraries for novel targeted therapies.
- Individualized medicine. Identify tumor signatures that serve as predictors of patient response to targeted drug therapies. Dr. Ho collaborates with Jeanette E. Eckel Passow, Ph.D., and Alexander S. Parker, Ph.D., to better match patients with targeted therapies.
Significance to patient care
Standard treatments in kidney cancer rarely produce a durable response, and most studies focus on the primary tumor. The goal of Dr. Ho's laboratory is to use kidney cancer as a paradigm for identifying vulnerabilities in metastases, a major cause of mortality, and alter the course of other tumors with similar errors.
Dr. Ho is a physician-scientist and is a member of both the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine (CIM) Genomic Tumor Board, which makes treatment recommendations for individuals affected by genitourinary cancers, and the CIM Epigenomics Group, which drives the basic science behind epigenomic studies. His laboratory brings together a synergistic team of clinicians, basic scientists, biostatisticians and bioinformaticians from Mayo Clinic to translate bench discoveries to patient care.
- Member, Clinical Advisory Council, VHL Alliance, 2015
- Kathryn H. and Roger Penske Career Development Award to Support Medical Research, Mayo Clinic, 2013
- Scholar, Paul Calabresi Training Program in Clinical-Translational Research, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, 2013
- Young Investigator Award, Conquer Cancer Foundation of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, 2011
- Karl-Flance Firm Clinicopathological Conference Award, Washington University, 2009