The Future of Researches in Aging and Oncology

To fellow researchers

The Division of Cancer Cell Biology in ISMUT (Institute of Medical Science, the University of Tokyo) is a newly established division, starting from April 1st, 2016. We were previously associates of Nagoya City University Graduate School of Medical Sciences. The theme of our laboratory tries to uncover the most fundamental yet important question in biology. “Why do people age, and why do people develop cancer?"

The aging society and the longevity of the Japanese population in general has become prominent, with the average life span lengthening yearly. The increase rate of the average life span is 1.5 times more than that of a century ago. However, the maximum life span of humans has not encountered the same elongation as the average life span, and is still more or less around the one hundred mark. This means that the maximum life span is not extended by environmental factors, rather, depends on other variable that are still unknown. Then what is the mechanism that programs our lifespan? Comparing our lifespan with other species we know that mice and some rodents can live for several years while the longevity of the turtle has been recorded to reach over two hundred years. As humans, mice, and turtles share approximately 80% of homologous genes, the difference in genetic material is not a sufficient answer.The study of aging strives to scientifically solve these problems.

Another important topic is oncology, as it is the number one cause of death in Japan. Our current knowledge sheds light on the oncogenic pathways to metastasis, and the overview of these processes is slowly but gradually being solved. Yet the development of cancer treatment and prevention methods are undeniably behind the progress of pathological studies. Our laboratory studies the molecular mechanism of normal cells in cancer prevention and why the defense system against cancer becomes altered during cancer progression. Furthermore, we also anticipate that restoring the defense system will lead to an innovative cancer treatment/prevention method.

Looking at senescence and oncogenesis from cellular proliferation, it is apparent both are contradicting phenomena. We have recently identified that these topics are closely regulated by common factors. In the course of our studies we desire to contribute to the dream of the human kind to extend the health span by understand in aging and cancer.