Nagarajan Kannan, Ph.D., is combining cutting-edge technologies to study single cells, genetic approaches to track clones, and functional assays to quantify stem and progenitor cell numbers and their differentiation programs. Through his research in his Stem Cell and Cancer Biology Laboratory, Dr. Kannan hopes to identify cellular and molecular mechanisms that prevent or promote development of faulty progenitors in healthy epithelial tissues and their evolution into malignancies such as breast cancer.
- Aging adult mammary stem and progenitor cells during cancer initiation. Stem and progenitor cells of epithelial origin have been successfully isolated from healthy as well as cancerous breast tissues. A detailed understanding of their molecular states, transitions, properties, latent differentiation potential, and intrinsic or extrinsic regulators of their transcriptional networks is lacking. Dr. Kannan's lab aims to explore cellular and molecular properties of aging mammary stem and progenitor cells that increase women's susceptibility to cancer as they age. Dr. Kannan is collaborating with breast surgeons and researchers at Mayo Clinic to fill knowledge gaps by using cancerous cells to unravel mechanisms that lead to the progressive acquisition of genomically unstable state and malignant properties.
- Mammary lineage-specific tumor suppressive mechanisms. Two distinct epithelial cell lineages exist in human mammary glands. These cells differ in their epigenomic landscape, which reflects their divergent functions. The two lineages also differ in their quality and quantity of telomere and mutagenic oxidative DNA lesions. It is plausible that cells of different mammary lineages are experiencing different mutagenic stress. Dr. Kannan's lab aims to identify novel, lineage-specific tumor suppressive forces operating to counter the mutagenic stress and maintain a healthy mammary gland.
- Oxidative signaling, therapy resistance and cancer stem cells. Oxidative stress plays a crucial role in cell fate. Dr. Kannan's lab aims to explore the role of oxidative signaling (and antioxidants) during various stages of malignant transformation of human mammary progenitor cells.
Significance to patient care
Human breast malignancies are assumed to arise in epithelial stem and progenitor cells that acquire mutations. Dr. Kannan's work will lead to discovery of rare, cancer-prone faulty progenitor cells hidden in healthy breast tissues. This may allow for early detection and lead to preventive therapies for individuals with a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
- Editorial board member, Reactive Oxygen Species, 2015-2018
- Chair, Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Scholars, 2014-2015
- Recipient, Mitacs Elevate Postdoctoral Award, 2013-2015
- Recipient, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation postdoctoral award, 2011-2013