Dr. Bapat's research program is focused on translational genomics - specifically discovery and functional characterization of cancer biomarkers and their applications to clinical setting. A major area of current research is investigation of epigenetic markers of genitor-urinary and gastro-intestinal neoplasms using genome-wide interrogation strategies.
Dr. Bapat's research program is focused on understanding the role of genetic and epigenetic factors (biomarkers) associated with risk and progression of common malignancies such as prostate, bladder and colon cancer. Using an integrated, multidisciplinary approach, we have discovered novel epigenetic biomarkers of prostate cancer, and provided insight into their potential utility as diagnostic and / or prognostic markers. We have identified genetic and epigenetic risk factors that contribute to increased susceptibility to distinct subtypes of colon cancer, using molecular pathology and genetic epidemiologic strategies. The ultimate goal of my research is to translate our findings into clinical practice by working with physician researchers and clinicians, to develop a personalized medicine approach utilizing such prognostic and predictive cancer biomarkers.
Discovery and validation of prognostic and predictive biomarkers of prostate cancer
A major current focus of research investigation is on the epigenetic mechanisms of differential methylation and their contribution to distinct pathways of prostate cancer development. Using genome-wide high throughput profiling strategies, we have discovered novel epigenetic biomarkers. We have identified distinct methylation signatures associated with different course of tumour progression and outcome in prostate cancer. Further characterization of these candidate genes is currently in progress, using statistical and bioinformatic approaches; and these biomarkers are validated by high-throughput, quantitative, gene-specific differential methylation detection assays. Related studies address functional significance of selected candidate genes and their epigenetic regulation in normal and disease state.
Emerging initiatives are focused on the investigation of unique genetic and novel epigenetic profiles (e.g. 5-hydroxymethylation marks) that will provide potential targets for therapeutic intervention, using genome-wide profiling and high-throughput technologies as well as pathway-based approaches.
Molecular Pathways of Bladder Carcinogenesis
A recently initiated project is aimed at discovery and characterization of biomarkers associated with distinct pathways of bladder cancer development.
Molecular genetic and epidemiologic approaches to cancer risk stratification
Dr. Bapat's research team has investigated genetic modifiers of cancer susceptibility. We have evaluated functional polymorphisms (SNPs) in DNA mismatch repair genes and metabolic pathway genes associated with colorectal cancer susceptibility, and analysis of the specific contributions of gene-gene and gene-environment interactions involved in the etiology of cancer among colorectal cancer patients identified through population-based cancer registries. Using molecular genetic, epidemiologic approaches, we recently showed that certain SNPs in the MLH1 gene region serve as a risk modifier allele for developing a distinct subtype of colorectal cancer. We have examined the link between a group of modifier genes involved in DNA repair and carcinogen metabolism pathways, and diet, and their impact on the progression of colon cancer. A current initiative is focused on combining these findings with genome-wide lymphocyte methylation profiling data to investigate dynamic interplay between genetic and epigenetic mechanisms.