Shawn Li

Canada Research Chair in Molecular and Epigenetic Basis of Cancer

Tier 1 - 2018-02-01
Western University
Canadian Institutes of Health Research


Research involves

Profiling and characterizing how disease pathways are activated in order to develop precision drugs and diagnostics.

Research relevance

This research will advance precision cancer medicine by targeting the proteins and pathways that drive pathogenesis.

Enabling Precision Medicine Through Functional Proteomics

Decoding the human genome gave us a much better understanding of the genetic basis of cancer—yet we still face the same challenges in cancer care that we faced a decade ago: a lack of new drug targets and resistance to existing drugs. The disparity between the enormous amount of genomic data available to us and the limited treatment options at our disposal calls for innovative strategies for research and drug discovery.

To identify new drugs and make better use of existing ones, we badly need functional proteomics approaches. (Proteomics is the large-scale study of proteins.) While genomic sequencing can help us identify the gene alterations associated with a predisposition to cancer, the real causes of the disease are the deviations in the encoded proteins. As Canada Research Chair in the Molecular and Epigenetic Basis of Cancer, Dr. Shawn Li is embracing technological innovations to uncover critical nodes in the regulatory protein network that underpin cancer development and progression as well as drug resistance.

Rather than using surrogate markers (such as DNA mutation) to infer signalling pathway activation in cancer, Li’s innovative proteomic technologies allow him and his research team to directly measure the activity of key drivers of cancer (such as protein kinases and lysine methyltransferases) and their associated signalling networks with unprecedented sensitivity and efficiency.

By shedding light on the functional proteome of cancer development and drug resistance, Li’s research will lead to new more accurate diagnosis and precise treatment of cancer.