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CIHR Skin Research Training Centre
Skin Cancer Biology Lab

Skin Cancer Biology Lab

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.



Dr. Kevin McElwee (acting)


Vancouver General Hospital Research Pavilion, The Skin Care Centre, BC Cancer Research Centre


Anand Kumar
Jing Lu
Madhuri Bhandaru  


Yabin Cheng
Shahram Khosravi
Reza Safaee Ardekani
Parvin Yenki
Cecilia Sjoestroem
Philip Tang  


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


  1. Aguissa-toure A, Li G. Genetic alterations of PTEN in human melanoma. Cell. Mol. Life Sci. 69:1475-1491, 2012.
  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. Chen G, Cheng Y, Tang Y, Martinka M, Li G. Role of Tip60 expression in melanoma cell migration, metastasis, and patient survival. J. Invest. Dermatol. 132(11):2632-2641, 2012.
  5. Rotte A, Martinka M, Li G. MMP2 expression is a prognostic marker for primary melanoma patients. Cellular Oncol. 35:207-216, 2012.
  6. Zhang G, Li G. Novel Multiple biomarkers to distinguish melanoma from dysplastic nevi. PLoS One 7(9): e45037, 2012.
  7. Safaee Ardekani G, Jafarnejad SM, Tan L, Saeedi A, Li G. BRAF mutation significantly decreases overall patient survival: A meta-analysis on colorectal cancer and melanoma. PLoS One 7(10):e47054, 2012.
  8. Liu X, Wang S, Xia X, Chen Y, Zhou Y, Wu X, Zhang J, He S, Tan Y, Qiang F, Røe OD, Li G, Zhou J. Synergistic role between p53 and JWA: prognostic and predictive biomarkers in gastric cancer. PLoS One 7(12):e52348, 2012.
  9. Jafarnejad SM, Safaee Ardekani G, Ghaffari M, Martinka M, Li G. Sox4 mediated Dicer expression is critical for suppression of melanoma cell invasion. Oncogene (in press)
  10. Jafarnejad SM, Safaee Ardekani G, Li G. Pleiotropic function of SRY-related HMG box transcription factor 4 in regulation of tumorigenesis. Cell. Mol. Life Sci. (in press)
  11. Jafarnejad SM, Sjoestroem C, Safaee Ardekani G, Martinka M, Li G. Reduced expression of nuclear Dicer correlates with melanoma progression. Pigment Cell Melanoma Res 26:147-149, 2013.
  12. Jafarnejad SM, Sjoestroem C, Martinka M, Li G. Expression of the RNase III enzyme Drosha is reduced during progression of human cutaneous melanoma. Mod. Pathol. (in press)
  13. Cheng Y, Chen G, Martinka M, Li G. Prognostic significance of Fbw7 in human melanoma and its role in cell migration. J. Invest. Dermatol. (in press)  
  14. 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. 18: 2987-2996, 2012.
  15. 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 7(3):e34154, 2012.
  16. Lin H, Wong RPC, Martinka M, Li G. Increased BRG1 expression in human melanoma. Treatment Strategies Dermatol. 1:78-83, 2011.
  17. Wu Y, Chen R, Zhao X, Li A, Li G, Zhou J. JWA regulates chronic morphine dependence via the delta opioid receptor. Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 409:520-525, 2011.
  18. Chen G, Cheng Y, Zhang Z, Martinka M, Li G. Prognostic significance of cytoplasmic p27 expression in human melanoma. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 20:2212-2221, 2011.
  19. Jafarnejad SM, Li G. Regulation of p53 by ING family members in suppression of tumor initiation and progression. Cancer & Metast Rev. (in press)
  20. Cheng Y, Li G. Role of the ubiquitin ligase Fbw7 in cancer progression. Cancer & Metast Rev. (in press)
  21. Chen G, Cheng Y, Zhang Z, Martinka M, Li G. Cytoplasmic Skp2 expression is increased in human melanoma and correlated with patient survival. PLoS ONE, 6(2):e17578.
  22. Wong RPC, Lin H, Khosravi S, Jafarnejad SM, Chen D, Li G. Tumour suppressor ING1b maintains genomic stability upon replication stress. Nucleic Acids Res. 39:3632-3642, 2011.
  23. Wani A, Jafarnejad SM, Zhou J, Li G. Integrin-linked kinase regulates melanoma angiogenesis by activating NF-κB/interleukin-6 signaling pathway. Oncogene. 30:2778-2788, 2011.
  24. Piche B, Khosravi S, Martinka M, Ho V, Li G. CDH22 expression is reduced in metastatic melanoma. Am. J. Cancer Res. 1:233-239, 2011.
  25. Aguissa-Touré A, Wong RPC, Li G. The ING family Proteins: From structure to function. Cell. Mol. Life Sci. 68:45-54, 2010.
  26. Jafarnejad SM, Wani A, Martinka M, Li G. Prognostic significance of Sox4 expression in human cutaneous melanoma and its role in cell migration and invasion. Am. J. Pathol. 277:2741-2752, 2010.
  27. Li G, Piche B. ING2 in cell cycle regulation. Cell Cycle. 9:3846, 2010.
  28. Li J, Cheng Y, Tai D, Martinka M, Welch D, Li G. Prognostic significance of BRMS1 expression in human melanoma and its role in tumor angiogenesis. Oncogene. 30:896-906, 2011.
  29. Bai J, Zhou Y, Chen G, Zeng J, Ding J, Terry J, Tan Y, Zhou J, Li G. Overexpression of Cullin1 is associated with poor prognosis of patients with gastric cancer. Human Pathol. 42:375-383, 2011.
  30. Li J, Zhang Z, Li G. Patient outcome prediction by multiple biomarkers in human melanoma: A clinicopathologic study of 118 cases. Exp. Ther. Med. 2: 131-135, 2011.
  31. Li J, Li G. Cell cycle regulator ING4 is a suppressor of melanoma angiogenesis that is regulated by the metastasis suppressor BRMS1. Cancer Res. 70:10445-53, 2010.
  32. Zhang Z, Chen G, Cheng Y, Martinka M, Li G. Prognostic significance of RUNX3 expression in melanoma. Cancer. 117:2719-2727, 2011.
  33. Piche B, Li G. Inhibitor of growth tumor suppressors in cancer progression. Cell. Mol. Life Sci. 67:1987-1999, 2010.
  34. Garate M, Wani AA, Li G. The NAD(P)H:Quinone Oxidoreductase1 induces cell cycle progression and proliferation of melanoma cells. Free Radical Biol. & Med. 48:1601-1609, 2010.
  35. Chen G, Li G. Cul1 expression promotes melanoma cell proliferation through regulating p27 expression. Int. J. Oncol. 37:1339-1344, 2010.
  36. Lin H, Wong RPC, Martinka M, Li G. BRG1 expression is increased in human cutaneous melanoma. Br. J. Dermatol. 163: 502-510, 2010.
  37. Wang Y, Jiang H, Dai D, Su M, Martinka M, Brasher P, Zhang Y, McLean D, Zhang J, Ip W, Li G, Zhang X, Zhou Y. Alpha 1 antichymotrypsin is aberrantly expressed during melanoma progression and predicts poor survival for patients with metastatic melanoma. Pigment Cell & Melanoma Res. 23:575-578, 2010.
  38. Chen G, Cheng Y, Martinka M, Li G. Cul1 expression is increased in early stages of human melanoma. Pigment Cell & Melanoma Res. 23:572-574, 2010.
  39. Chen G, Wang Y, Garate M, Zhou J, Li G. The tumor suppressor ING3 is degraded by the ubiquitin-proteosome system. Oncogene, 29: 1498-1508, 2010.
  40. Bai J, Zhang J, Wu J, Shen L, Zeng J, Ding J, Wu Y, Gong Z, Li A, Xu S, Zhou J, Li G. JWA regulates melanoma metastasis via integrin avb3 signaling. Oncogene, 29:1227-1237, 2010.
  41. Cheng Y, Li J, Martinka M, Li G. The expression of NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1 is increased along with NF-κB p105/ p50 in human cutaneous melanomas. Oncol. Rep. 23:973-979, 2010.

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