We seek to determine if the ability to regenerate and repair lost tissues increases or decreases the risk of cancer. Although it is often assumed that increased regenerative capacity confers greater cancer risk, we hypothesize that the potent regenerative abilities of the skin, intestine, and liver could serve to preserve tissue integrity, reduce inflammation, and resist transformation in the context of recurrent injury. In particular, we bring this question to bear on the problem of liver disease and hepatocellular carcinoma, which most frequently arises in chronically damaged livers. We have demonstrated that it is possible to genetically augment regenerative capacity in mammals while simultaneously reducing cancer risk. 10% of my time is devoted to taking care of liver cancer patients at the Parkland Hospital Multidisciplinary Hepatocellular Carcinoma Clinic, work that fuels translational aspects of our research.
Hao Zhu, MD