Big Ideas

Zachary T. Schafer, Ph.D.

May 27, 2014

A team of researchers led by 2011 V Scholar Grant recipient Dr. Zachary T. Schafer, Coleman Assistant Professor of Cancer Biology at The University of Notre Dame, has uncovered important new data about carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) and their role in tumor biology. CAFs play a major role in tumor progression, but exactly how is not understood. In their paper, Schafer and his team describe a critical role of CAFs in blocking anoikis, a cell death process that inhibits the spread of tumor cells to distant sites, through the secretion of insulin-like growth factor-binding proteins (IGFBPs). They revealed the exact molecular mechanism utilized by IGFBPs to inhibit anoikis – the stabilization of an anti-cell-death protein called MCL-1. Further pre-clinical studies are needed to better understand which IGFBPs might be best to target and to learn the exact moment during a tumor’s progression when IGBFP inhibition could be an effective action.