Research in the Tollefsbol lab is primarily involved with cancer and aging epigenetics, the underlying mechanisms of cancer and aging and novel therapeutic approaches to cancer. This work has also involved translational research on breast and ovarian cancer as well as other cancers. The single most important risk factor for developing cancer is age; therefore, both cancer and aging have been a focus of our research. Epigenetic processes are heritable changes that do not involve mutations, but rather, modifications of DNA or its associated proteins and the Tollefsbol lab is interested in these processes as controllers of gene expression in cancer and aging in general. We are interested in discovering novel approaches of modifying epigenetic gene expression in cancers and aging and the translational potential of epigenetic-modulating nutritional compounds in inhibiting cancer and impacting aging. The laboratory is using or has plans to use many cutting-edge technological developments in cancer and aging genetics and translational research such as RNA interference (RNAi), epigenomics, microarray analysis and proteomics. Studies on the role of telomerase in cancer and aging have made many lists of the most important future research areas in biological sciences. The Tollefsbol lab is also interested in the epigenetic regulation of the gene that produces telomerase (hTERT) and in unraveling the mysteries of how this gene relates to cancer and aging. Located at the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes and synthesized by the enzyme telomerase, telomeres maintain the length of chromosomes. The majority of human cancer cells express high levels of telomerase and inhibition of telomerase activity kills the cancer cells without effect on most normal somatic cells. Our laboratory directs a Cell Senescence Culture Facility, which is one of only a few of this type in the United States and is designed to facilitate studies of aging.