Our research goal is to understand the role of the microenvironment in tumor progression and metastasis, with a particular focus on the molecular mechanisms that drive pathological angiogenesis. Our investigation centers on developmental vascular anomalies and solid tumors.
Angiogenesis is the formation of new blood vessels from pre-existing blood vessels. This process involves the growth, differentiation and migration of endothelial cells, which line the inside wall of blood vessels. Angiogenesis is an important hallmark of cancer. Tumors secrete growth factors to induce angiogenesis to meet the blood supply and metabolic demands for growth. The resulting new blood supply “feeds” growing tumors and allows tumor cells to invade and metastasize.
Angiogenesis inhibitors are designed to inhibit the formation of new blood vessels, thus reducing tumor growth and metastasis. These drugs target a variety of pro-angiogenic molecules, such as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), epidermal growth factor (EGF), and their receptors. The Food and Drug Administration has approved several angiogenesis inhibitors for the treatment of cancer. Click here for comprehensive review articles on this topic (Grothay and Galanis, 2009 and Weis and Cheresh, 2011).
We are currently investigating the molecular signaling pathways that regulate angiogenesis in a number of cancer types, including melanoma, breast and ovarian cancer.
(A) Blood vessels around a tumor nodule (arrows). (B) Blood vessels within a tumor (arrows) (Blood vessels, green; smooth muscles around blood vessels, red; cell nuclei, blue)
Soft tissue sarcomas
Our lab has a special interest in soft tissue sarcomas (tumors of mesenchymal-type cells). We are examining the tumor microenvironment and pathological angiogenesis in angiosarcoma (endothelial cell tumor) and leiomyosarcoma (smooth muscle cell tumor)
Vascular anomalies are congenital defects in blood vessel development and growth. Examples of vascular anomalies are infantile hemangiomas, venous malformations, lymphatic malformations, and port wine stains. We are currently investigating the regulation of infantile hemangioma development and growth by the Akt signaling pathway.
Child with an infantile hemangioma on the cheek