Senior Principal Investigator, Cancer Science Institute of Singapore, NUS
Yong Loo Lin Professor in Medical Oncology, NUS
Professor Ito’s research centers on the regulation of stem cells in the stomach. Stem cells are required for daily maintenance of the stomach, which is constantly damaged by microorganisms and chemicals. The basis of our research was the discovery of a gene, RUNX3, that may act as either a cancer promoting (oncogene) or cancer suppressing gene (tumour suppressor). Through our research of the RUNX genes, we have revealed a new stem cell protein, which controls stem cell proliferation and tissue repair. This is important as cancer development is linked to disruption of these processes due to abnormal gene expression in so called “cancer stem cells”- a small subpopulation of cells within tumors with the potential to initiate tumor growth when transplanted into another host animal. Identification and study of these cells may reveal new insights into cancer development and potential cancer treatments or diagnostic tools.