Expression of Collagen-1A and a-SMA in mammary fibroblasts
Activated Astrocytes (green) and Melanoma Cells (red)
Expression of Collagen-1A and a-SMA in mammary fibroblasts upon activation with conditioned medium from tumor cells
mCherry Melanoma cells surrounding a blood vessel in the brain
The main goal of our laboratory is to uncover stromal pathways that contribute to tumorigenesis and metastasis.
Extensive research has led to the understanding that tumors are more than just cancer cells: stromal cells in the tumor microenvironment play a crucial role in all stages of tumor initiation and progression, and cancer research in recent years is no longer focused only on the pathways inside tumor cells, but rather on understanding the biology of tumors as multi-cellular organs.
The major cause of cancer mortality is metastasis to distant organs. Currently, metastatic cancers are mostly incurable and available therapies can only prolong life to a limited extent. Therefore, uncovering the mechanisms that facilitate metastasis is an urgent and unmet clinical need. There is a growing understanding that the metastatic microenvironment is crucial in enabling the growth of disseminated cancer cells. Nevertheless, changes in the metastatic microenvironment that enable the growth of metastasizing tumor cells are poorly characterized, and our research is focused on elucidating them.
In an effort to discover novel target molecules for stromal-directed therapies, we combine state-of-the-art transgenic mouse models with gene expression profiling, intra-vital imaging and pre-clinical approaches to reveal the molecular events at the earliest stages of metastasis.
Our main focus is on studying the role of inflammation and cancer-associated fibroblasts in breast cancer and lung metastasis, and to uncover the role of neuroinflammation in melanoma brain metastasis.
Expanding our understanding of the early stages of metastatic growth is an essential prerequisite for the discovery of novel target molecules for the design of targeted therapeutics that may prevent, rather than try to cure, metastatic disease.
Research projects include:
- Characterizing the dynamic co-evolution of cancer-associated fibroblasts during breast cancer progression and metastasis.
- Uncovering the formation of the pre-metastatic niche in lungs.
- Elucidating the reciprocal interactions between cancer-associated fibroblasts and immune cells in the tumor microenvironment.
- Characterizing the role of astrocytes and neuroinflammation in melanoma brain metastasis.