Outgrowth of disseminated metastases is the major cause of mortality in cancer patients. In the Taube lab, we are investigating the molecular pathways and cellular properties which enable primary tumor cells to metastasize.
In normal tissues, epithelial cells form a well-structured barrier using a variety of adhesion molecules. However, aberrant activation of a conserved cellular program, termed epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), facilitates the separation of epithelial cells from this tissue. When EMT occurs in epithelial tumors, the probability of metastatic dissemination is increased.
Our current work is focused on uncovering the regulatory mechanisms which facilitate EMT in both normal and cancerous settings, describing the specific targets and roles of these regulatory mechanisms and testing small molecule inhibitors of these proteins to ultimately lead to novel therapeutic strategies.