Skin Cancer Biology

Based at the VCHRI Jack Bell Research Centre, this laboratory is dedicated to understanding the molecular mechanisms behind the development of skin cancers. We are investigating exactly what happens at the molecular level when a skin lesion or growth becomes cancerous. Which genes are being turned on or turned off? Why does the growth pattern become disordered? Why it is invasive? By knowing which genes are functioning abnormally in skin cancer, we are also determining new targets for innovative therapies of metastatic melanoma, an advanced cancer which responds poorly to conventional chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Cases of melanoma that are not detected early enough cannot be cured by surgery, and the five-year survival rate drops to less than 50%. Unfortunately melanoma is very resistant to conventional cancer therapies, and therefore the laboratory is looking at a number of strategies to get melanoma to respond to systemic therapy. To date we have had success in identifying new target molecules and genes for treating malignant melanoma.

Lab Leader (Acting)

Dr. Youwen Zhou

Lab Location

Jack Bell Research Centre
Rooms 412 & 436
Vancouver General Hospital


  • Dr. Madhuri Bhandaru
  • Dr. Jing Lu
  • Dr. Anand Rotte
  • Dr. Guohong Zhang

Visiting Scholar



  • Gholamreza Safaee Ardekani
  • Teshager Bitew
  • Yabin Cheng
  • Mehdi Jafarnejad
  • Shahram Khosravi
  • Cecilia Sjoestroem
  • Philip Tang

Major Investigative Technologies Utilized

  • Tissue microarray
  • Host-cell-reactivation assay
  • apoptosis assays
  • adenovirus
  • molecular cloning
  • immunofluorescence
  • Flow cytometry
  • DNA sequencing

Recent Publications

  1. Aguissa-toure A, Li G. Genetic alterations of PTEN in human melanoma. Cell. Mol. Life Sci. (in press)
  2. Wong RPC, Aguissa-Touré A, Wani AA, Khosravi S, Martinka M, Martinka M, Li G. Elevated expression of Rad18 regulates melanoma cell proliferation. Pigment Cell Melanoma Res. 25, 213-218, 2012.
  3. Wang S, Wu X, Zhang J, Chen Y, Xu J, Xia X, Qiang F, Li A, Li G, Shu Y, Zhou J. CHIP functions as a novel suppressor of tumor angiogenesis and its prognostic significance in human gastric cancer. Gut. ( in press)
  4. Wang S, Wu X, Ding J, Chen Y, Ding J, Zhou Y, Tan Y, Zhang J, Bai J, Zheng J, Gong Z, Li A, Li G, Roe OD, He S, Zhou J. Prognostic and predictive role of JWA and XRCC1 expression in gastric cancer: a retrospective study of three large cohorts. Clin. Cancer Res. (in press)
  5. Gong Z, Zhu Z, Shi Y, Li X, Ye Y, Zhang J, Li A, Li G, Zhou J. JWA deficiency suppresses dimethylbenz[a]anthracene-induced skin papillomas via inactivation of MAPK pathway in mice. PLoSONE. (in press)
  6. Lin H, Wong RPC, Martinka M, Li G. Increased BRG1 expression in human melanoma. Treatment Strategies Dermatol. 1:78-83, 2011.

Agencies Involved

  • National Cancer Institute of Canada
  • Canadian Institute of Health Research
  • Canadian Dermatology Foundation
  • Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research
  • Natural Science and Engineering Research Council
  • Canadian Melanoma Foundation