Research in our laboratory focuses on functions of chemokines and chemokine receptors in primary and metastatic cancer.
We are investigating independent and coordinated functions of chemokine CXCL12 (also known as SDF-1) and its two receptors, CXCR4 and CXCR7. These receptors are upregulated on malignant cells and tumor blood vessels in multiple malignancies, including breast and ovarian cancers, and CXCL12 also is secreted by stromal cells in primary and metastatic tumor microenvironments. Signaling through these receptors appears to regulate several steps in cancer initiation, progression, and metastasis.
To analyze these signaling pathways in cell-based assays and living mice, we utilize a wide variety of molecular imaging techniques ranging from intravital microscopy to whole animal imaging modalities. Through active collaborations with investigators in Biomedical Engineering (Dr. Shuichi Takayama) and Chemical Engineering (Dr. Jennifer Linderman), we develop novel microfluidic devices to study key steps in tumor progression under physiologic conditions in vitro and computational models to describe and predict signaling dynamics at multiple scales of biologic complexity. Our goals are to advance understanding of signaling pathways under physiologic conditions and gain new insights into mechanisms of metastasis that can be used to improve cancer therapy.