The focus of our lab is discovering how cancer cells metastasize or spread throughout the body. We have a particular interest in cancer cells spreading to bone. Most of our work studies how cancer cells exit the primary tumor and enter the bloodstream, how the cells survive in the blood, and why they spread to bone instead of other tissues.

We also use patient blood samples to find tumor cells and other markers that can identify patients likely to have aggressive cancer which will spread.

Our goal is to find ways to improve cancer treatment by identifying patients with aggressive, high-risk cancer so they can be treated and to provide peace of mind to patients with indolent or low-risk cancer that may not require treatment.

Also by studying how cancer cells metastasize, we can design new treatments to prevent the spread of cancer in high-risk patients.

Our Projects

CD117 Signaling as a Mechanism of Prostate Cancer Metastasis

Based upon cancer stem cell markers we previously identified in patients, we are studying the role of the tyrosine kinase receptor CD117 expression and activation on prostate cancer cell growth and mobilization. Using sorted prostate cancer cells, we are testing how CD117 expression affects primary tumor growth, premetastatic bone turnover, and cancer stem cell mobilization into the circulation

Developing New Spontaneous Bone Metastasis Models

In collaboration with the Orthopaedic Research Department, we are using porcine, decellularized trabecular bone to create a bone microenvironment in mice. Using syngeneic prostate cancer cells we are studying bone colonization during metastasis.

Platelet TSP-1 and TGF-β1 in Prostate Cancer Induced Bone Remodeling

We have demonstrated that platelets are required for tumor-induced bone remodeling in preparation for future metastasis. Using total and platelet-specific knockout mice, we are examining the role of the TSP-1/TGF-β1 signaling axis in primary tumor growth and premetastatic bone turnover.

Platelet Sequestered Tumor Markers and Circulating Stem Cells in Prostate Carcinoma

In collaboration with clinicians, we are identifying possible biomarkers for advanced prostate cancers. Using patient blood samples before and after tumor resection we are measuring the levels of circulating cancer stem cells and tumor-derived proteins in circulating platelets. Markers of cancer presence will be absent in the samples after tumor resection. With this method, we can also examine markers of cancer recurrence and metastasis in patients who experience disease progression.