Cell invasion through extracellular matrix, stem cell-niche interactions, cellular pausing
My research program focuses on elucidating mechanisms driving key, but poorly understood cellular processes underlying normal development and cancer progression. To accomplish this aim, we utilize C. elegans, where its simple cellular complexity and amenability to experimental analysis allows for novel discoveries into mechanisms governing basic cellular behaviors. My research program has developed new in vivo models and live-cell imaging tools to address three fundamental cellular processes: (1) How cells transmigrate and remodel extracellular matrix barriers, (2) How stem cells induce their niches both normally and ectopically, and (3) How cells arrest, maintain dormancy and then reinitiate migration or growth. We are also extending our findings into cancer cells to forge applications to medicine. Cell invasion, cancer stem cell survival and tumor dormancy are some of the most crucial, yet least understood aspects of metastatic cancer progression. By revealing the mechanistic underpinnings of these basic cellular processes in C. elegans and translating these into tumor models, our work is establishing new fields of study and better strategies to therapeutically treat cancer.