Skip to main content

Bradley R. Cairns, Ph.D.

Languages spoken: English

Academic Information

Departments: Oncological Sciences - Professor, Biochemistry - Adjunct Professor

Academic Office Information

brad.cairns@hci.utah.edu

(801) 585-1822

Huntsman Cancer Hospital
Department of Oncological Sciences
1950 Circle of Hope, Room: Rm 3725
Salt Lake City, UT 84112

Labs

Research Interests

  • Cancer Biology
  • Chromatin
  • Transcription Factors
  • DNA Methylation
  • Zebrafish

Biography: Dr. Cairns received his B.S. (Honors) in Chemistry from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon in 1987. He conducted his graduate work at Stanford with Nobel Laureate Roger Kornberg PhD on both signal transduction and chromatin remodeling. He received his PhD in Cell Biology from Stanford in 1996, and also conducted an early phase of postdoctoral training (funding from the American Cancer Society). Dr. Cairns received formal postdoctoral training with Fred Winston PhD in the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School (funding from the Leukemia Society of America), where he continued to study chromatin remodeling complexes. In 1998, he joined the faculty of the Department of Oncological Sciences and the Huntsman Cancer Institute. In 2000, he was appointed as an Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He is currently Professor and Chair of the Department of Oncological Sciences, and is the Jon and Karen Huntsman Presidential Professor of Cancer Research and Senior Director of Basic Science at the Huntsman Cancer Institute – both within the University of Utah, School of Medicine. He is Co-Leader of the Nuclear Control of Cell Growth and Differentiation Program. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2017.

Research: The Cairns lab strives to understand chromatin-transcription relationships – with an emphasis on development and cancer – and effectively utilizes biochemistry, genetics, and genomics in multiple model systems. The areas/questions the lab addresses include 1) Chromatin remodeling: How are nucleosomes moved and ejected by chromatin-remodeling complexes, and how is this progress misregulated in cancer? 2) Germline and embryo gene packaging: Are genes important for embryo development (and oncogenesis) packaged in special chromatin structures while in the germline and what is their fate and impact in the early embryo? 3) How is Totipotency – the ability to become any cell type – established in early cleavage-stage embryos, and are the involved factors misregulated in cancer? 4) How does the genome ‘sculpt’ chromatin structure to achieve proper gene regulation prior to the onset of transcription in embryos?

Teaching: Dr. Cairns teaches in the Gene Expression core course, and has taught many specialty chromatin course. He organizes a weekly transcription journal club and has mentored 23 PhD students.

Administration and Service: Senior Director of Basic Science, Huntsman Cancer Institute. Chairman, Department of Oncological Sciences. Co-Leader, Nuclear Control of Cell Growth and Differentiation Program, Huntsman Cancer Institute. Chair, High-Throughput Genomics Core. Chair, Bioinformatics Core. Chair, Research Informatics Core. Service: Dr. Cairns is on the editorial board of Molecular Cell and Developmental Cell, reviews grants as a standing member or ad hoc member of multiple NIH sections, and has co-organized multiple scientific meetings for Keystone, ASBMB, FASEB, and EMBL.

Research Statement

Cancer is a disease involoving improper cell growth, death and differentiation. My research focuses on determining - at the mechanistic level - how a cell normally regulates processes important to cancer such as chromatin structure, transcription, and developmental decisions.

Research: The Cairns lab strives to understand chromatin-transcription relationships – with an emphasis on development and cancer – and effectively utilizes biochemistry, genetics, and genomics in multiple model systems. The areas/questions the lab addresses include 1) Chromatin remodeling: How are nucleosomes moved and ejected by chromatin-remodeling complexes, and how is this progress misregulated in cancer? 2) Germline and embryo gene packaging: Are genes important for embryo development (and oncogenesis) packaged in special chromatin structures while in the germline and what is their fate and impact in the early embryo? 3) How is Totipotency – the ability to become any cell type – established in early cleavage-stage embryos, and are the factors involved misregulated in cancer? 4) How does the genome ‘sculpt’ chromatin structure to achieve proper gene regulation prior to the onset of transcription in embryos.

Education History

Postdoctoral Fellowship Harvard Medical School - Fred Winston, PhD
Genetics
Postdoctoral Fellow
Postdoctoral Fellowship Stanford University - Roger Kornberg, PhD
Structural Biology
Postdoctoral Fellow
Doctoral Training Stanford University - Roger Kornberg, PhD
Cell Biology
Ph.D.
Undergraduate Lewis and Clark College
Chemistry (honors)
B.S.