Our research is elucidating mechanisms driving critical, but poorly understood cellular behaviors underlying normal development and cancer progression. We utilize C. elegans, where its simple cellular complexity and amenability to experimental analysis facilitates powerful insights into fundamental cellular processes. We are primarily focused on developing new in vivo models and live-cell imaging tools (protein activity, localization and FRET-based force sensors), to address three important cellular behaviors:
- How cells breach and invade basement membrane barriers.
- How stem cells induce their niches both normally and ectopically.
- How cells arrest, maintain dormancy and then reactivate growth and migration.
Importantly, we are also extending our findings into human cancer cells and initiating chemical screens to foster medical applications for our findings. Cell invasion, cancer stem cell survival and tumor dormancy are some of the most crucial, yet least understood aspects of metastatic cancer progression. By revealing the mechanistic underpinnings of these cellular processes in C. elegans and translating these into tumor models, our work is establishing new fields of study and better strategies to treat human diseases such as cancer.
We are grateful to the March of Dimes, American Cancer Society, Pew Foundation, Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Hargitt Foundation, Duke University, the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation for supporting our research.