The Stem Cell and Cancer Biology Laboratory of Nagarajan Kannan, Ph.D., M.S., is dedicated to improving scientific knowledge to build and maintain healthy tissues and to prevent or treat cancer and other diseases and conditions, including treatment-related side effects.

About Dr. Kannan's research

Human tissue maintains a steady state and function using different types of cells and their relative numbers to fulfill their physiological roles. Pools of long-lived self-renewing stem cells in such tissue ensure a constant supply of cells needed for tissue renewal.

During tissue renewal, stem cells transition through different molecular states, ultimately acquiring a terminal (mature) cell state.

Primitive (stem and progenitor) cell state has been implicated as the cell of origin for cancers in various tissues. A large body of epidemiologic studies has identified a number of cancer risk factors, such as sex and age and various genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors.

Acquisition of altered molecular features in response to these risk factors, in the ostensibly normal primitive cell compartments, may lead to distortions in molecular states and their transitions, ultimately generating aberrant clones with increased risk of mutagenesis and cancer initiation.

Scientists have insufficient knowledge about the physiological mechanisms regulating stem cells and their molecular transitions and vulnerability to acquiring mutagenic or oncogenic states in conditions such as aging and cancer. A clear understanding of stem cell differentiation processes and the biology of cancer risk associated with early changes in stem and progenitor cells is important to reduce or prevent cancer risk.

Similarly, understanding the identity and function of primitive cells with malignant properties may provide vital information about cancer stem cells and their role in disease progression and therapy resistance.

We believe that finding the cellular sources of cancer will help lead to a new era in cancer prevention and treatment research, and that the surface of what is possible in cancer treatment has been barely scraped.

Accepting applications for research training

Our lab conducts both basic and translational research and offers an excellent opportunity for education and training. We need creative and competent students, trainees and staff who can further empower the laboratory through their rigorous learning and dedication.

Our lab includes clean rooms with standard facilities for mammalian tissue and cell culture, lentiviral culture, bacterial culture, custom-built hypoxic workstations, state-of-the-art multimode and high-content imagers, and standard molecular biology and biochemistry workbenches.

Other lab facilities to which our trainees have access include digital PCR, 10x Genomics, nanostring technology, mass and flow cytometers (analyzers and sorters), confocal laser microscopes, and animal facilities.

Because Dr. Kannan is a faculty member of the Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center, the lab team also has access to a wealth of shared resources, including the Bioinformatics Core, Cytogenetics Core, Pathology Research Core and others. In addition, lab trainees have access to cutting-edge technologies through Mayo Clinic core resources and to many opportunities for professional development and leadership.

About Dr. Kannan

In addition to being principal investigator of the Stem Cell and Cancer Biology Lab and conducting clinical studies, Dr. Kannan is an assistant professor of laboratory medicine and pathology at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester, Minnesota. One of Dr. Kannan's main missions is to discover rare, cancer-prone faulty progenitor cells hidden in healthy breast tissues. This research may lead to improved early detection of cancer and to preventive therapies for people at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.