Dr. Jonathan Coloff

Assistant Professor

Department of Physiology and Biophysics


Office:  COMRB 2137
Lab: COMRB 2128
email: coloff@uic.edu
Phone: (312) 996-7992

Rotation Projects

My laboratory is interested in understanding how cancer cells utilize nutrients to support their pathological functions of uncontrolled proliferation and survival in harsh environments. We study these topics with the goal of identifying novel strategies of targeting the unique metabolic features of tumors, including by characterizing new metabolic drug targets and identifying potential dietary interventions for cancer. Right now we are focusing on two areas that could support rotation projects: 1. We have discovered that luminal/ER+ breast tumors are auxotrophic for the non-essential amino acid serine. This inability to synthesize serine is unique to luminal breast cancer cells and sensitizes this subtype of breast tumors to dietary serine starvation. At present, we are investigating how dietary serine starvation can be implemented in combination with standard-of-care endocrine therapies to synergistically kill luminal breast cancer cells. 2. We are also very interested in understanding how nutrient availability affects the sensitivity of cancer cells to chemotherapeutic drugs. There is growing evidence that nutrient availability is highly variable across tissues and tumor types, and that this variability can impact how well certain cancer therapies work. We have performed a large-scale screen investigating how physiological levels of nutrients affect the response of triple-negative breast cancer cells to hundreds of therapeutic compounds, and have identified several cases of dramatic nutrient-dependent differences in sensitivity. We are currently investigating the mechanisms of these differences and developing strategies of using this information to improve drug responses in patients.