Cancer Cell Biology
Area of interest
The ability of a cell to change shape and move are critical during embryonic development, immune responses and wound healing. However this ability becomes detrimental when cells escape from primary tumors and invade new tissues, as metastasis is the leading cause of death in cancer patients. Coordinated cytoskeletal dynamics and membrane trafficking underlie cell morphology changes and motility in both development and cancer metastasis. Understanding how these subcellular systems are regulated and coordinated will be fundamental in determining how cells change shape and move, and how this can be manipulated.
My laboratory is interested in how extracellular cues, such as binding cell adhesion molecules or chemotropic guidance cues, are interpreted into alterations of the cytoskeleton dynamics and membrane trafficking events that mediate cell morphology change and motility. While mechanistically interconnected, how cytoskeletal remodeling and membrane trafficking are coordinated to achieve cell movement and morphology is poorly understood.
My lab is focusing on molecules poised to translate extracellular cues into coordinated cytoskeletal changes and membrane trafficking. In recent years, a clear overlap in molecules involved in the movement and guidance of neurons in the developing nervous system and those involved tumor formation and metastasis has emerged, revealing important similarities between these seemingly disparate systems.
Therefore, we are exploring the function of these molecules in both cancer cell models and embryonic neurons. My laboratory uses parallel biochemical, genetic, cell biological, and high-resolution microscopy approaches to determine how cytoskeletal dynamics, adhesion dynamics, and membrane trafficking drive morphogenesis and motility in cancer cells and developing neurons.
Awards and Honors
- HHMI Predoctoral fellow (2001-2006)
- ASCB Merton R Bernfield Award for ASCB 45th Annual Meeting (2005)
- Fellow of the Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund for Medical (2006-2009)
- Merck/SPRI Senior Postdoctoral fellowship (2009-2011)