2014 Research Fellow

Dr. Kamesh Bikkavilli – University of Illinois

Dr. Kamesh-BikkavilliDr. Rama Kamesh Bikkavilli’s cancer biology training began with his Doctoral research at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong. After completion of his graduate research, he moved to Stony Brook University, New York, for his post-doctoral training in the laboratory of Dr. Craig Malbon. After a brief stay at the University of Colorado, Denver, Dr. Bikkavilli accompanied his mentor, Dr. Robert A. Winn to the University of Illinois at Chicago and joined the team as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pulmonary, Critical Care, Sleep and Allergy.

Lung cancer cells gain survival and proliferative advantage over normal lung cells by a multitude of molecular mechanisms. One such mechanism is silencing of control of cell division. Recently it was proposed that cancer cells have increased methylation of the amino acid arginine as a means of enhancing cancer cell proliferation.

Dr. Bikkavilli’s research aims at identifying a new class of targets for lung cancer treatment. Dr. Bikkavilli will be working on a class of enzymes called protein arginine methyl transferases (PRMTs) that are poorly studied in lung cancer. Recent work from Dr. Bikkavilli and other researchers around the world identified that these enzymes are upregulated in Cancers. Dr. Bikkavilli will explore the role of PRMT-mediated methylation on ILF2/ILF3 complex formation and the subsequent down regulation of p53, a tumor suppressor protein. He will also test the utility of arginine methylation patterns on proteins as “barcodes” for early detection and screening of lung cancer.

Dr. Bikkavilli’s work focuses on understanding this newly discovered mechanism of malignant behavior by cancer cells. He proposes developing a biomarker assay to detect very early stages of lung cancer by testing for the presence of arginine methylation on ILF2/ILF3. Early detection would allow earlier surgical removal of lung tumors, thus improving prospects for a cure. A further goal is to develop novel lung cancer therapy targeting the process of arginine methylation of ILF2/ILF3 transcription factors.