Co-culture of cancer cells (darker cells) with stromal fibroblasts (lighter cells) with a signalling molecule shown in green speckles.

Introduction

The focus of our research is on the spread of cancer through the body and how the tumour microenvironment affects this process.

two breast cancer cells.

Figure 1: Two breast cancer cells transfected with the phosphatase regulatory subunit PPP1R14C (in blue) and stained for F-actin (in red) 80x80microns (adapted from Madsen et al Nature Cell Biology 2014).

More recently, we have also become interested in how the tumour microenvironment might be modulated by chemotherapy and how it can affect responses to therapy. Because all of these processes happen within an organism, getting mechanistic data about the molecular basis of processes involved, as opposed to simply measuring the end-point of tumour growth, presents a formidable challenge.

The focus of our research is on the spread of cancer through the body and how the tumour microenvironment affects this process. More recently, we have also become interested in how the tumour microenvironment might be modulated by chemotherapy and how it can affect responses to therapy. Because all of these processes happen within an organism, getting mechanistic data about the molecular basis of processes involved, as opposed to simply measuring the end-point of tumour growth, presents a formidable challenge.

Our group combines genetic and molecular analysis of cell motility and signalling with state-of-the-art imaging technologies - particularly intravital microscopy - to visualise moving cells and seewhen and where signal pathways are active in tumours. These approaches allow us to test the mechanistic predictions generated in our reductionist cell and tissue culture experiments. We are also starting to underpin this work with theoretical models that allow for the exploration new hypotheses and, ultimately, the development of predictive models of cancer cell behaviour.