Metastasis is the spread of cancer to one or more different organs of the body from where it started. The brain is one of the common organs for cancer recurrence. Even with aggressive treatments, brain metastasis is increasingly becoming a significant clinical problem. To find new therapeutic targets to treat brain metastasis, we need to first understand the progression of the disease.
Metastases are generally site specific. The environment of each organ is different. Cancer cells may only be able to colonize one or more specific organs, depending on the primary tumor from which the cells derive. As illustrated in the ‘seed and soil’ theory, tumor cells behave like seeds that can only successfully colonize selective organs that offer the right soil for their survival and growth. Thus, we plan to understand brain metastasis by focusing on the complex conversation between cancer cells (the seed) and brain cells (the soil). Using advanced microscopy techniques, we will directly visualize the metastatic brain tumors in the living animals. Meanwhile, we will detect therapeutic responses when newly designed treatments are applied. From these studies, we will obtain dynamic longitudinal changes in the cancer cells and the surrounding brain cells. This will allow “reconstruction” of the brain metastasis process, as well as therapeutic response. We strongly believe that these studies will yield new ways of fighting brain metastasis.