This image shows the formation of mesenchymal-like cancer cells, the highly invasive cells that mobilize and spread cancer to other areas of the body.

Cancer Biology

In the McDonald lab, we are taking an integrated systems approach to the study of cancer. This means that we view cancer not as a defect in any particular gene or protein, but as a de-regulated cellular/inter-cellular process.

An understanding of such complex processes requires the implementation of experimental approaches that can provide an integrative holistic or ‘systems’ view of intra-and inter-cellular process.

We employ a number of high-throughput genomic (e.g., RNA-seq, microarray) technologies to gather systems data on the status of cancer cells. We strive to integrate into our research program, the exceptional strengths that exist at Georgia Tech in the fields of engineering and the computational sciences.



Genomic analysis of ovarian cancer tumor samples has revealed multiple translocations and other structural rearrangements associated with onset and progression of the disease.

Current Goals

1) development of a generalized cancer diagnostic using mass spectrometric metabolic profiling

2) development of miRNAs and other small non-encoding RNAs as potential therapeutic agents against cancer metastasis and the use of functionalized nanoparticles (nanohydrogels) for their targeted delivery to cancer cells; and

3) exploring the significance of mRNA splice variants in the onset and progression of cancer;

4) The use of learning algorithms (support vector machine) to accurately predict optimal drug therapies from the molecular profiles of individual patient tumors