Shiri Gur-Cohen, PhD

Funded with support from the Michael Toshio Cure for Cancer Foundation

When a patient is diagnosed with cancer, they start treatment hoping to get rid of the unhealthy cells. But some cancers, including a common and aggressive type called squamous cell carcinoma, have an unsettling ability to resist treatment. When cancer cells escape therapy, patients may find that the tumor comes back after initially going away and that it starts to spread. Drug resistance is the main reason that cancers have been so difficult to eliminate. We know that genetic changes in healthy cells can cause cancer to form, but these don’t tell us why some cancer patients don’t respond well to treatment. My lab is developing new ways to observe how the surrounding healthy tumor environment is helping cancer cells resist therapy. We found that drug-resistant tumor cells rely on their connections with lymphatic vessels, typically considered as the waste drains of the body. Using a model of skin cancer, we are proposing a new tool to track cancer cells in their natural habitat to find how lymphatic vessels shield and protect the cancer cells. By targeting the supportive lymphatic network, we hope to prevent cancer cells from surviving therapy. We believe that our findings will lead to new ways to treat cancers and eliminating cancer relapse as a treatment fallout.

Location: Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health/University of California, San Diego - La Jolla
Proposal: Decoding Stem Cell-Niche Dependencies in Driving Tumor Evolution and Therapy Resistance
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