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.


christine brainson
Christine Brainson, PhD
View research profile »
peter zhou
Peter Zhou, MD, PhD
View research profile »
rina plattner
Rina Plattner, PhD
View research profile »


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 see the MCO members and their profiles.

View MCO Members

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.
NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center - A Cancer Center Designated by the National Cancer Institute

Markey Cancer Center is designated by the National Cancer Institute as a Comprehensive Cancer Center – a distinction that recognizes our commitment to accelerating precision cancer research and care to patients. We are the first and only NCI-Comprehensive Cancer Center in Kentucky, and one of 57 in the nation.