Cancer Research / Wound Healing
Cancer Biology and Therapy
Cancerous cells ignore the normal rules that control cell division in a given tissue. As a mass of cancerous cells grows out of control, it out-competes its non-cancerous neighbors for space and nutrients. There are at least two critical events that contribute to morbidity and mortality associated with most cancers. First, growth of a tumor beyond a certain size is self-limiting unless angiogenesis provides new blood vessels to support the growing cancer. And second, the majority of mortality associated with cancer is due to invasion of the cancer into surrounding areas and metastasis of the original tumor cells to sites distant from the initial or primary tumor. Angiogenesis and invasion/metastasis are dependent on proteolytic degradation of the extracellular matrix by enzymes that include a variety of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). Faculty members in the college are involved in research focused on (a) understanding the regulation of the genes involved in both initiating and blocking angiogenesis and (b) turning on or off the MMP genes that might influence the ability of a cell to move through a tissue. With this knowledge in hand, we have begun to develop and test new and promising therapies that are proving to limit tumor growth and invasion.
Tissue injury causes cell death which can impair a tissue's structure and function. Without regard to the type of tissue (whether it is skin, bone, or internal soft organ), injury initiates a set of biological events that attempts to fix the damage and restore the original properties to the tissue. These events have been separated into three overlapping phases including: (a) an inflammatory phase comprised of hemostasis or blood clotting and migration of inflammatory cells to the wound to prevent infection and initiate repair; (b) a proliferative phase for new tissue formation, which involves the in-flow and subsequent proliferation of keratinocytes, fibroblasts and endothelial cells, leading to re-epithelialization, angiogenesis, and granulation tissue formation; and (c) a long remodeling phase involving extracellular matrix maturation aimed at restoring tissue structure and function. The college has multiple faculty members working in the area of wound healing. Their work ranges from understanding the transcriptional control of the multiple genes involved in each phase of tissue repair to understanding how extraneous factors (e.g. hormone therapy, infection, and life stresses) affect the process and outcome of repair.