The overarching goal of research in my laboratory is to understand how cancer cells metastasize and spread to vital organs in the body, such as the lung, liver, bone and brain. In breast cancer patients, metastasis leads to death in over 40,000 women in the U.S. each year. The possibility of progression to stage IV, metastatic disease is a constant source of fear and anxiety, since 30% of patients eventually progress to metastasis and survival for these patients is very poor (<3 years). Despite its prevalence, metastasis is an incredibly complex biological process that is very challenging to study due to the limited availability of authentic model systems. My laboratory has developed an innovative new approach to study metastasis in high resolution, using cutting-edge new single-cell technologies to study how individual cancer cells spread in human patient tumor models of breast cancer. Using our approach, we have found that cancer cells use a specialized form of cellular metabolism in order to spread. In our proposed study, we will investigate why and how this form of metabolism promotes cancer cell spread, and we will explore the effectiveness of using metabolic inhibitors to prevent metastasis and fatality in cancer patients.
Devon Lawson, Ph.D.
Location: Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center/UC Irvine - California
Proposal: Intratumor heterogeneity and metastasis at single cell resolution