Metastases are responsible for around 90% of cancer deaths; however, despite the great advances reached in understanding the molecular mechanisms involved in the invasion and metastasis process, the control of the dissemination of this disease remains one of the major challenges that cancer research still faces today.
Carcinoma, the most common type of cancer, arises from the transformation of epithelial cells. At early stages of tumour progression and carcinoma metastasis, epithelial tumour cells activate a crucial program named epithelial–to–mesenchymal transition (EMT), which has emerged as a key regulator of metastasis in some cancers such as colon cancer by conferring an invasive phenotype. Cancer-associated EMT is characterized by the disruption of cell–cell contacts, cell–substratum adhesions and apical–basal polarity, accompanied by the reorganization of the cytoskeleton. All these changes cause the loss of epithelial phenotype and the acquisition of a mesenchymal phenotype, which includes a gain of migratory and invasive capabilities, important for the dissemination of cancer cells. Moreover, EMT has also been described to contribute to cancer drug resistance.
Important number of studies proposes EMT as a promising target in the discovery of new therapies directed against cancer. We are particularly interested in cancers whereby EMT is specifically relevant such as colorectal cancer, prostate and renal cancer. Our lab combines molecular and cellular biology and state of the art microscopy, using in vitro models (sable culture of tumour cells), tumour samples from cancer patients and in vivo mice models.
Our research specific goals are:
To study the molecular mechanisms involved in the epithelial plasticity in the initiation, progression, metastasis and resistance to anti-tumour agents.
To identify novel therapeutic cancer targets during EMT responsible for colon cancer progression.
To evaluate novel potential antitumor compounds to block EMT to advance into precision medicine and to study the efficacy in preclinical models for cancer.
To identify and validate novel biomarkers for diagnosis and prognosis of carcinoma progression.