Brian Wilhelm’s research team uses the latest high-throughput technologies, such as next-generation DNA sequencing (e.g., RNA-seq, CHIP-seq, ATAC-seq), to elucidate the connections underlying transcriptional activity and cancer biology.
The ability to routinely sequence the entire genome of cancer patients or to conduct high-resolution genome-wide binding studies has tremendous potential to provide novel insight into the mechanisms of diseases.
More specifically, Brian Wilhelm and his team use functional genomics approaches to study the role of mutations present in pediatric leukemia in order to understand how the disease originates and evolves.
The data generated through these approaches are then used to understand basic mechanisms of transcriptional regulation, particularly deregulation in the context of cancer. This knowledge, combined with chemogenomic screening, is aimed at allowing the development of novel small molecules or immune-based therapeutics for cancer.
The work carried out in Brian Wilhelm’s lab has resulted in the discovery of new leukemia biomarker genes that are systematically expressed in leukemic cells, but not expressed in normal blood cells. By pushing forward the study of this small group of genes, the focus is on understanding their biological role in order to create more effective treatments that will improve the survival of children suffering from acute myeloid leukemia.
Professor Wilhelm and his collaborators work with a human in vivo experimental system that allows multiple leukemias to be generated from single cord blood samples using the same gene fusions seen in pediatric patients. The sequencing and epigenetics data generated from these models provide a much better understanding of the molecular machinery behind this disease.
In collaboration with the Bouilly Lab, Brian Wilhelm and his team are also testing a new method for detecting AML cells using a microfluidic-electronic sensor triggered by the presence of proteins or DNA specific to cancer cells. While monitoring the levels of minimal residual disease in the clinic requires invasive and painful interventions for the collection of bone marrow, these sensors could provide a quicker and much less invasive way to ensure the monitoring of the residual disease and to improve patient treatment.