The Berman Laboratory

This is the site for Dr. David Berman’s research laboratory at Queen’s University in Kingston Ontario.

We discover and evaluate novel biomarkers and therapeutic targets that can rapidly improve the lives of patients with bladder and prostate cancer. To do this, we integrate information from massive genomic databases, our own experimental studies, and carefully curated human biospecimens. The result is a powerful approach that uses every available type of analysis.
The animation shows the means by which a single cancer stem cell might form a tumor nodule, with the stem cells lined up on the outside of the nodule and the more differentiated cells residing in the nodule’s interior (see our publications on cancer stem cells). The bottom panel depicts the organization of cells in normal benign epithelial tissues. Note the similar organization of stem cells and differentiated cells in benign epithelium and cancer.

Our experimental work has identified genes such as SOX9, Nestin, and members of the Notch signaling pathway, which pattern urogenital organs in the embryo and remodel tissues after injury. We have found that these same signals are also reactivated in cancers, helping them form, grow and spread. Within urogenital cancers, some cells are particularly prolific, serving as so called “cancer stem cells.” Cancer stem cells are thought to be responsible for the recurrence of cancers after treatment. We have identified cancer stem cells in bladder cancers, a cancer type that is notorious for recurring after therapy. We are working to better understand the roles of bladder cancer stem cells in human patients and to find improved therapies that specifically target these cells.

Diagram shows the initial development of the prostate from an embryonic structure called the urogenital sinus (UGS). In males, androgens (testosterone and its derivatives) drive cells in the UGS to proliferate and invade, forming the immature prostate.