Death from breast cancer is largely attributed to metastasis—when the disease spreads to other tissues. In order to metastasize, cancer cells must be able to invade the local tissue, escape from the primary site, enter into and survive in the bloodstream or lymphatic system, pass from the blood vessels into other organs, and adapt to or modify the new site to create a new tumor. The molecular mechanisms that facilitate these steps are largely unknown and are the focus of our research.
Our lab has developed new in vitro and in vivo approaches to better understand breast cancer and metastasis. Using 3D culture techniques and a new mouse model system, we discovered that macrophage stimulating protein (MSP) is an important facilitator of breast cancer metastasis in mice and in humans.
Current projects include studying the mechanisms that lead MSP to promote the escape of cancer cells from the primary tumor, and exploring the mechanisms by which MSP induces metastasis to bone.
The lab also works to develop better models for preclinical breast cancer drug testing.