V Scholar Plus Award- extended funding for exceptional V Scholars
Our lab is focused on improving treatment for patients with head and neck cancer. This project is studying cells that allow a cancer to spread to other parts of the body (i.e. metastasize). We believe that these same cells, termed cancer initiating cells or CICs, are also resistant to standard treatments. The first two years of V Foundation support has been very helpful. Using cells growing in plastic dishes and mice we have found a key pathway that CICs use to survive anti-cancer treatments. This same pathway also helps these cells to spread to other parts of the body. Our goal for the next year is to study these pathways in human cancers.
We will study whether the genetic information that controls CICs in our models can be used to identify them in human tumors. We want to learn whether tumors with more CICs are more resistant to standard treatments. Finally, we will use tissues from actual patients to study whether patients whose tumors have more CICs are more likely to have aggressive cancers. These experiments will allow us to identify new ways to treat these cancers. We hope to improve our ability to select the right treatment for an individual patient.