The ultimate goal of Dr. Liu’s lab is to understand the general mechanism of tumorigenesis and develop strategies to prevent cancers at their origin. It is believed that lot of ageing-related diseases such as cancers and seemingly contradictory events like cell death in degenerative diseases and uncontrolled cell growth in cancers actually share similar etiology: autophagy defect. Autophagy is one of the most important cellular processes for selective degradation of misfolded/aggregated proteins and dysfunctional organelles. Autophagy defect leads to genome instability that is the origin of most of cancers. However, genome instability has to be amplified through continuous cell division in order to develop into cancers.
Currently, the lab is investigating how microtubule/mitochondria-associated protein LRPPRC, MAP1S (C19ORF5) and RASSF1 regulate autophagy, why autophagy defect leads to ageing and tumorigenesis, and whether early intervention with chemical components such as nontoxic phytochemicals can reduce the generation and terminate the amplification of genome instability so that tumor initiation is suppressed or progress of tumor development is delayed. Hepatocellular carcinoma and prostate adenocarcinomas are specifically selected as prototypes to study the mechanisms of tumorigenesis in general. The experimental approach will use genetically engineered mice and cultured mammalian cells as well as cancer patients as models for biochemical, cell biological and cancer biological studies.