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Trudy G. Oliver

Associate Professor of Oncological Sciences


B.S. Oklahoma Baptist University

Ph.D. Duke University



Trudy Oliver's Lab Page

Trudy Oliver's PubMed Literature Search

Molecular Biology Program

Lung Cancer, Drug Resistance, Mouse Models, Developmental Signaling Pathways, Tumor Progression, Metabolism, Immunology, Transcription Factors


A novel mouse model of squamous cell lung cancer
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the lung is a common subtype of lung cancer that leads to ~40,000 deaths each year in the US alone. Whereas numerous mouse models of other lung tumor subtypes have been created and used to study their underlying biology and treatment, relatively less is known about SCC. In 2012, The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) sequenced ~200 human squamous lung tumors and identified the most frequently altered genes. Our lab seeks to alter these genes in vivo to test their role in tumor initiation and progression. Because mice can inhale viruses, our lab uses lentiviral technology to deliver genes specifically to the mouse lung. To create two genetic “hits,” we used lentiviruses to deliver candidate squamous-associated oncogenes along with Cre recombinase, which allows for conditional deletion of tumor suppressor genes. We discovered that Sox2 expression cooperates with loss of the tumor suppressor Lkb1 to promote SCC (Mukhopadhyay et al, Cell Reports, 2014). This model represents the first Sox2-driven mouse model of SCC. Sox2 is one of the most frequently altered genes in human SCC, amplified in ~21% and overexpressed in 60-90% of tumors.


Lkb1 is altered in 6-19% of human SCCs and its loss is associated with activation of the mTOR pathway. We observed that mTOR pathway activity co-occurs with Sox2 expression in over half of human SCCs. Mouse SCCs highly resemble their human counterparts at the level of histopathology, biomarker expression and signaling pathway activation (Figure 1).

We are using this novel mouse model to identify:

  1. the cell of origin of SCC
  2. cooperating genetic events associated with SCC using CRISPR technology
  3. novel therapeutic targets for SCC

Identifying drug resistance mechanisms in different subtypes of lung cancer
Our lab seeks to identify mechanisms of drug resistance in lung cancer. Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is initially highly responsive to chemotherapy but frequently acquires vicious resistance. SCLC has been treated with chemotherapy for over 40 years, and there are still no targeted therapies approved for SCLC treatment.

The tumor cell of origin and/or underlying genetic lesions may play a critical role in determining chemotherapy response. Mouse models of SCLC have been created based on conditional genetic loss of the tumor suppressors Rb and p53, which are both lost in virtually all SCLCs. Our lab uses genomic and gene expression analyses to identify and compare chemotherapy resistance mechanisms in mouse models of SCLC. Understanding how the genetic characteristics of a given tumor dictate therapeutic response will help tailor therapy to the individual. Our lab is also using CRISPR technology to study the function of genes altered in SCLC in vivo, as well as creating novel genetically engineered mouse models of SCLC.


Regulation of the Mdm2/p53 tumor suppressor network in lung cancer
The tumor suppressor p53 is the most commonly mutated gene in human cancer. Approximately 50% of tumors harbor point mutations in p53, but virtually all tumors have a defect in the p53 pathway. As a transcription factor, p53 responds to cellular stress by inducing target genes that promote cell cycle arrest, DNA repair, apoptosis or senescence. Because p53 plays a central role in determining cell fate decisions between life and death, elucidating the signaling circuitry that governs p53 function is critical for understanding tumorigenesis and manipulating p53 for therapeutic purposes.

The role of p53 in chemotherapy response is controversial. In some tissues, p53 promotes apoptosis, which would promote tumor cell death. In other tissues, p53 can promote cell cycle arrest, DNA damage repair and senescence—processes that would protect tumors from chemotherapy. Recently, it has become appreciated that in breast, bladder and lung cancer, wildtype p53 can promote chemotherapy resistance. Our recent findings have uncovered a novel pathway that we hypothesize helps wildtype p53 promote-mediated chemotherapy resistance. We discovered that the Caspase-2-PIDDosome complex is responsible for cleavage and inhibition of Mdm2, a master regulator of p53. Cleavage of Mdm2 converts it from an inhibitor of p53 to an activator of p53 (Figure 3). One of our lab goals is to determine the role of Mdm2 cleavage in p53 signaling and therapeutic resistance. These studies will contribute to our understanding of drug resistance mechanisms as well as p53 pathway regulation in normal development and cancer.

Oliver Figure

The Caspase-2-PIDDosome promotes p53 stability and activity. PIDD is a p53 target gene that is induced upon DNA damage. PIDD accumulation promotes assembly of the Caspase-2-PIDDosome complex, which activates the protease Caspase-2. Caspase-2 cleaves and removes the RING domain of Mdm2, converting Mdm2 from an inhibitor of p53 to an activator of p53 (Oliver et al, Mol Cell, 2011).


  1. Huang F, Ni M, Chalishazar MD, Huffman KE, Kim J, et al. Inosine Monophosphate Dehydrogenase Dependence in a Subset of Small Cell Lung Cancers. Cell Metab. 2018 Jun 19;PubMed PMID: 30043754.

  2. Zhang W, Girard L, Zhang YA, Haruki T, Papari-Zareei M, et al. Small cell lung cancer tumors and preclinical models display heterogeneity of neuroendocrine phenotypes. Transl Lung Cancer Res. 2018 Feb;7(1):32-49. PubMed PMID: 29535911; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5835590.

  3. Cardnell RJ, Li L, Sen T, Bara R, Tong P, et al. Protein expression of TTF1 and cMYC define distinct molecular subgroups of small cell lung cancer with unique vulnerabilities to aurora kinase inhibition, DLL3 targeting, and other targeted therapies. Oncotarget. 2017 Sep 26;8(43):73419-73432. PubMed PMID: 29088717; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5650272.

  4. Brägelmann J, Böhm S, Guthrie MR, Mollaoglu G, Oliver TG, et al. Family matters: How MYC family oncogenes impact small cell lung cancer. Cell Cycle. 2017 Aug 18;16(16):1489-1498. PubMed PMID: 28737478; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5584863.

  5. Mollaoglu G, Guthrie MR, Böhm S, Brägelmann J, Can I, et al. MYC Drives Progression of Small Cell Lung Cancer to a Variant Neuroendocrine Subtype with Vulnerability to Aurora Kinase Inhibition. Cancer Cell. 2017 Feb 13;31(2):270-285. PubMed PMID: 28089889; NIHMSID: NIHMS838387; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5310991.

  6. Terry MR, Arya R, Mukhopadhyay A, Berrett KC, Clair PM, et al. Caspase-2 impacts lung tumorigenesis and chemotherapy response in vivo. Cell Death Differ. 2015 May;22(5):719-30. PubMed PMID: 25301067; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4392070.

  7. Mukhopadhyay A, Oliver TG. Mighty mouse breakthroughs: a Sox2-driven model for squamous cell lung cancer. Mol Cell Oncol. 2015 Apr-Jun;2(2):e969651. PubMed PMID: 27308419; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4904963.

  8. Oliver TG, Patel J, Akerley W. Squamous non-small cell lung cancer as a distinct clinical entity. Am J Clin Oncol. 2015 Apr;38(2):220-6. PubMed PMID: 25806712.

  9. Masin M, Vazquez J, Rossi S, Groeneveld S, Samson N, et al. GLUT3 is induced during epithelial-mesenchymal transition and promotes tumor cell proliferation in non-small cell lung cancer. Cancer Metab. 2014;2:11. PubMed PMID: 25097756; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4122054.

  10. Mukhopadhyay A, Berrett KC, Kc U, Clair PM, Pop SM, et al. Sox2 cooperates with Lkb1 loss in a mouse model of squamous cell lung cancer. Cell Rep. 2014 Jul 10;8(1):40-9. PubMed PMID: 24953650; NIHMSID: NIHMS680248; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4410849.

  11. Curry NL, Mino-Kenudson M, Oliver TG, Yilmaz OH, Yilmaz VO, et al. Pten-null tumors cohabiting the same lung display differential AKT activation and sensitivity to dietary restriction. Cancer Discov. 2013 Aug;3(8):908-21. PubMed PMID: 23719831; NIHMSID: NIHMS486814; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3743121.

  12. Xue W, Meylan E, Oliver TG, Feldser DM, Winslow MM, et al. Response and resistance to NF-κB inhibitors in mouse models of lung adenocarcinoma. Cancer Discov. 2011 Aug;1(3):236-47. PubMed PMID: 21874163; NIHMSID: NIHMS315465; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3160630.

  13. Oliver TG, Meylan E, Chang GP, Xue W, Burke JR, et al. Caspase-2-mediated cleavage of Mdm2 creates a p53-induced positive feedback loop. Mol Cell. 2011 Jul 8;43(1):57-71. PubMed PMID: 21726810; NIHMSID: NIHMS312217; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3160283.

  14. Doles J, Oliver TG, Cameron ER, Hsu G, Jacks T, et al. Suppression of Rev3, the catalytic subunit of Pol{zeta}, sensitizes drug-resistant lung tumors to chemotherapy. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Nov 30;107(48):20786-91. PubMed PMID: 21068376; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2996428.

  15. Oliver TG, Mercer KL, Sayles LC, Burke JR, Mendus D, et al. Chronic cisplatin treatment promotes enhanced damage repair and tumor progression in a mouse model of lung cancer. Genes Dev. 2010 Apr 15;24(8):837-52. PubMed PMID: 20395368; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2854397.

  16. Cowley DO, Rivera-Pérez JA, Schliekelman M, He YJ, Oliver TG, et al. Aurora-A kinase is essential for bipolar spindle formation and early development. Mol Cell Biol. 2009 Feb;29(4):1059-71. PubMed PMID: 19075002; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2643803.

  17. Schliekelman M, Cowley DO, O'Quinn R, Oliver TG, Lu L, et al. Impaired Bub1 function in vivo compromises tension-dependent checkpoint function leading to aneuploidy and tumorigenesis. Cancer Res. 2009 Jan 1;69(1):45-54. PubMed PMID: 19117986; NIHMSID: NIHMS761127; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4770788.

  18. Fogarty MP, Emmenegger BA, Grasfeder LL, Oliver TG, Wechsler-Reya RJ. Fibroblast growth factor blocks Sonic hedgehog signaling in neuronal precursors and tumor cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Feb 20;104(8):2973-8. PubMed PMID: 17299056; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1815291.

  19. Oliver TG, Read TA, Kessler JD, Mehmeti A, Wells JF, et al. Loss of patched and disruption of granule cell development in a pre-neoplastic stage of medulloblastoma. Development. 2005 May;132(10):2425-39. PubMed PMID: 15843415.

  20. Oliver TG, Wechsler-Reya RJ. Getting at the root and stem of brain tumors. Neuron. 2004 Jun 24;42(6):885-8. PubMed PMID: 15207233.

  21. Oliver TG, Grasfeder LL, Carroll AL, Kaiser C, Gillingham CL, et al. Transcriptional profiling of the Sonic hedgehog response: a critical role for N-myc in proliferation of neuronal precursors. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Jun 10;100(12):7331-6. PubMed PMID: 12777630; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC165875.


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Last Updated: 7/31/18