Drivers and Biomarkers of Metastasis

Metastasis: The Leading Cause of Cancer Deaths

Cancer doesn't kill primarily through the initial tumor; it's metastasis—the spread of cancer cells to distant organs—that's responsible for over 90% of cancer-related deaths. Yet, the complex mechanisms that drive metastasis – the factors that allow cancer cells to break away, travel, and thrive in new environments – are still not fully understood. Understanding metastasis is crucial because it's the key to dramatically improving cancer survival rates. By decoding this process, we can:

  • Develop highly accurate risk assessments: If we can understand what makes a tumor more likely to spread, we can create tools to identify high-risk patients much earlier for tailored treatments.
  • Discover new drug targets: If we can pinpoint the crucial steps in metastasis, we can develop drugs that specifically disrupt this process, effectively halting or preventing cancer spread.
  • Break therapy resistance: Understanding how tumors evade treatment will pave the way for new combination therapies to prevent and overcome resistance, leading to longer-lasting remissions.

The Drivers and Biomarkers of Metastasis Lab

In the Drivers and Biomarkers of Metastasis Lab, we're determined to crack the code of this complex process. Our focus lies within melanoma and breast cancer, where we investigate the intricacies of lymphovascular pre-metastatic niches – the unique environments that pave the way for the spread of cancer.

Research Focus Areas

  • Unmasking the Molecular Drivers of Metastasis: We strive to pinpoint the genes, proteins, metabolic shifts, and pathways that fuel metastasis. Alongside this, we search for biomarkers within the tumor and its environment that could signal a heightened risk of spread.
  • The Lymphatic Connection: The lymphatic system is an underappreciated highway for cancer cells. We investigate how this system facilitates tumor dissemination, modulates immune responses against tumors, and contributes to the formation of those deadly pre-metastatic niches.
  • The Intratumoral Microbiome: A growing body of research suggests that the microbiome within tumors may influence metastasis. We're exploring this intriguing link to uncover potential new therapeutic avenues
  • Overcoming Therapy Resistance: Even with exciting advances in cancer treatment, many metastatic tumors develop resistance to current therapies. Through our research, we aim to understand the mechanisms behind this resistance and devise new strategies to overcome it.

Our Tools and Approach

We're not afraid to combine the classic with the cutting-edge. From cellular models and clinical samples to sophisticated genetically engineered mouse models like the MetAlert mouse model, we utilize a wide array of tools to dissect metastasis at every level. Our collaborations with clinicians ensure that our findings translate into real-world impact.

Our Goals

  • Risk Prediction: We want to revolutionize cancer risk assessment by identifying biomarkers that can predict a patient's likelihood of developing metastasis. This would allow for personalized treatment plans.
  • New Therapeutic Targets: By understanding the drivers of metastasis, we aim to discover novel drug targets that will halt the spread of cancer or eradicate the disseminated tumor cells responsible for later relapses.
  • Beating Resistance: We aim to decipher the mechanisms that allow tumors to escape targeted therapies and immunotherapy. We seek to outsmart this resistance, leading to improved, more sustainable outcomes for patients.

Let's Change the Narrative

We believe that the secrets of metastasis hold the key to changing the way we approach cancer treatment and dramatically improving patient outcomes. Join us! Students, Collaborators, and those eager to learn and discover more are always welcome.

Group Coordinator


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