Tackling Childhood Cancer

The Benavente Lab research interests focus on understanding childhood cancers and contributing to their targeted therapeutics. Our research particularly aims to study the chromatin remodeling processes that establish the normal epigenetic landscape in developing tissues, how it can be perturbed to promote cancer, and provide insight for the development of new therapies for pediatric solid tumors.

Retinoblastoma and osteosarcoma are two of the most common forms of childhood solid tumors. Children with hereditary retinoblastoma -who have a germline mutation in the RB1 gene- are predisposed to osteosarcoma later in their life. Despite recent progress in clinical outcomes in retinoblastoma and osteosarcoma, enucleation (removal of the eye) remains a frequent treatment for retinoblastoma and the survival rate for osteosarcoma is just over 50%. This underscores the need to identify the molecular mechanisms responsible for disease progression and to develop more effective drugs.

Research interests:

  • Retinoblastoma and targeted therapeutics
  • Osteosarcoma and targeted therapeutics
  • Epigenomics of pediatric solid tumors
  • Human in vitro┬ámodel of retinoblastoma

Through the study of the epigenetic landscape of retinoblastoma and osteosarcoma, our laboratory hopes to determine why some cell types are more susceptible to tumor formation than other cell types, in particular following RB1 inactivation. We aim to elucidate the role of epigenetics and genome instability in tumorigenesis and how the RB/E2F pathway participates in this process. Our ultimate goal is to identify new therapeutic targets for anti-cancer treatment.