Predictive Markers of Tumor Micrometastasis

The epithelial model systems we use in the lab involve breast cancer, renal cancer and lung cancer. More specifically, in the case of renal (kidney) cancer, we have preliminary evidence that E-cadherin downregulation and HGF/c-Met signaling are important pathways mediating tumor cell invasiveness.

Dr. Anastasiadis and his team are testing the involvement of the cadherin/catenin system in renal cancer micrometastasis, which is the major cause of death in patients who were initially diagnosed with early-stage disease. Our goal is to validate p120 and other metastasis-related proteins as valuable targets for the development of novel therapeutics and to determine whether the expression of a panel of metastasis-related proteins can predict which patients are more likely to develop metastasis after the initial tumor excision (nephrectomy). These patients could then be followed up more closely, or receive more-aggressive treatments to improve their outcomes.

Similarly, in the case of breast cancer, we are very interested in identifying molecular pathways that promote metastasis to particular sites, especially to bone and brain. One of the hypotheses we are testing is that inappropriate expression of mesenchymal cadherins by breast cancer cells promotes metastasis to bone or brain depending on the cadherin expressed.