Molecular and Cellular Oncology (MCO) Research Program


The overall mission of the MCO Program is to identify epigenetic, metabolic, redox/mitochondrial and signaling mechanisms that govern how cancer cells survive, proliferate, invade and metastasize to evade therapy and the immune system, and to identify novel targets for prevention and treatment, in alignment with the MCC’s goal to reduce mortality in the catchment area (Kentucky), and its vulnerable populations.


tianyan gao
Tianyan Gao, PhD
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peter zhou
Peter Zhou, MD, PhD
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rina plattner
Rina Plattner, PhD
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The overarching goal of the Molecular and Cellular Oncology (MCO) Research Program is to identify epigenetic, metabolic, redox/mitochondrial and signaling mechanisms that govern cancer initiation, progression, metastasis and therapeutic resistance, to drive the development of novel and rational approaches for cancer prevention and treatment.

Specific Aims

  1. Identify aberrant signaling networks and critical interactions of tumor cells with their microenvironment to delineate molecular mechanisms that drive tumor initiation, progression and metastasis and resistance.
  2. Determine the contribution of metabolic reprogramming and epigenetic dysregulation to define novel pathways promoting cancer cell survival and adaptation.
  3. Delineate the mechanisms by which dysregulation of redox signaling promotes genomic instability, therapeutic resistance and normal tissue toxicity.

The MCO Research Program has members across the University of Kentucky campus, representing four colleges and sixteen departments.

Markey Research Member profiles can be accessed through the Scholars@UK platform. Click below to search Markey members.

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The MCO Program has monthly meetings which are used to discuss research in-progress and grant preparation. Leaders also coordinate with other program leaders, inviting CP and TO presentations to foster collaboration, and SRF Directors regularly present updates of the services and capabilities of their facilities.

If you would like to be added to the mailing list for the Molecular and Cellular Oncology Research Program (MCO) and receive meeting dates and times, please contact program leaders Dr. Tianyan GaoDr. Peter Zhou, and Dr. Rina Plattner.

MCO members co-lead five Transdisciplinary Working Groups and participate in one other collaborative group.

  • Gastrointestinal
  • Breast
  • Prostate
  • Immunotherapy
  • Lung
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  1. Expand basic discoveries in areas of existing strengths.
  2. Advance discoveries in new areas of emerging strengths.
  3. Increase inclusive transdisciplinary interactions through a robust focus on team science.
Markey Cancer Center is NCI-designated

The UK Markey Cancer Center was first designated by the National Cancer Institute in 2013 – a distinction that recognizes our extraordinary ability to provide world-class care for our patients. We are the only NCI-designated cancer center in Kentucky and one of only 71 in the nation.