University of Georgia Cancer Center


Early detection has become a cornerstone of successful efforts to reduce deaths from breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer. Success has been limited, however, for cancers without an early diagnostic test. UGA Cancer Center researchers are working to develop screening tests for hard to diagnose diseases such as pancreatic cancer. They also aim to redefine the meaning of the word “early” in early detection by searching for blood tests that can detect molecular changes that herald the presence of cancerous – or even precancerous – cells.

Carl W. Bergmann

Complex Carbohydrate Research Center (CCRC)

Associate VP Research-Facilities
Associate Director, CCRC
Executive Director, Animal Health Research Center
Senior Research Scientist

Carl W. Bergmann

Cells are embedded in an extracellular matrix made up of proteins and negatively charged carbohydrate chains. Bergman is exploring how these charged carbohydrates and proteins interact with cells to influence tumor growth and metastasis.

Michael Pierce

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences; Complex Carbohydrate Research Center

UGA Cancer Center Director
Mudter Professor in Cancer Research
Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Michael  Pierce

Pierce and his team have isolated a specific enzyme that is elevated in colorectal and breast cancer cells, as well as other types of cancer. The team is now looking for ways to inhibit the enzyme to slow the growth of tumors and prevent metastasis. His team is also working to find biomarkers that would allow doctors to diagnose pancreatic cancer early, when it’s more easily treated.


Michael Tiemeyer

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Complex Carbohydrate Research Center


Michael  Tiemeyer

Many of the basic mechanisms involved in the development of an organism from a single-celled embryo to a multi-cellular adult are the same ones that go awry when cells become cancerous. Tiemeyer is working to better understand the process of development, specifically focusing on the role of cell-surface carbohydrates, in hopes that his findings will reveal new ways to treat cancer.

Lance Wells

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Complex Carbohydrate Research Center

Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Adjunct Associate Professor of Chemistry
Georgia Cancer Coalition Scholar

Lance  Wells

Pancreatic cancer has the worst 5-year survival rate (1%) of any cancer, primarily due to a lack of early diagnostic tests. Wells is studying proteins and the sugars that adorn them in pancreatic ductal fluid from patients to find early diagnostic biomarkers. These biomarkers also have the potential to be targets for new therapeutic drugs.

Ying Xu

Computer Science Department, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Director of UGA Bioinformatics Institute
Regents-Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and Professor
Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholar

Ying  Xu

Xu and his research team are analyzing thousands of tissue samples - both cancerous and non-cancerous - and comparing patterns of gene and protein expression and then using computational methods to predict protein secretion. The hope is to find differences that can be used to revolutionize early diagnostics by creating a blood test that accurately predicts whether a person has cancer.

Shaying Zhao

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar

Shaying  Zhao

Colorectal cancer is known to have a strong genetic component, and Zhao is working to pinpoint the exact genes that play a role in the development and progression of the disease. Her work may ultimately help patients better understand their risk for colon cancer and may play a role in early detection.