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Darryl Shibata

Professor of Medicine

Cancer is a multistep process involving unknown numbers of cell divisions and mutations. One great mystery is how many divisions and how many mutations. Although these numbers are fundamental to the understanding of cancer, it has been extremely difficult to obtain estimates in humans since serial observations are impractical and unethical.

My laboratory is currently focused on using genetic analysis to determine when mutations are acquired and the number of divisions which intervene between tumor initiation and clinical presentation. We are exploring the concept of molecular tumor clocks and the general translation of well established phylogenetic approaches to cancer. By analogy to the "Out-of-Africa" problem, we seek to unravel the past to determine when individual human tumors arose "Out-of-Adenoma".

Besides traditional techniques in molecular biology, we employ robotics to increase laboratory efficiency and are currently exploring the use of computers to simulate experiments. Computer simulations take minutes but help plan experiments which will take weeks of laboratory work.