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Resolving the Signaling Events that Control Cancer Invasion

The Mendoza laboratory strives to understand the signals that drive cell migration and invasion (migration in 3D environments).

Cell migration is essential to embryogenesis, immune response, wound healing, and cancer metastasis. During this process, iterative cycles of edge protrusion and retraction, adhesion to the extracellular matrix, and cell body contraction propel cells forward. The mechanical structures and steps of migration are mechanistically coupled and their dynamics are temporally coordinated. Control is mediated by physical forces and chemical signals. Deducing the molecular mechanisms that control force generation is vital to understanding cell migration and will reveal new targets for inhibiting pathological migration in cancer.

Questions in the Mendoza lab span the range of fundamental investigation into mechanisms of cytoskeleton control and in vivo cancer invasion and metastasis:

  • How do biochemical signals synergistically regulate the intensity and timing of cytoskeleton assembly and adhesion for cell movement?
  • How do extracellular matrix and stromal cells in the tumor microenvironment signal to promote early cancer invasion and progression?
  • In lung cancers with KRAS and BRAF driver mutations, how does ERK/RSK signaling drive invasion within the native environment?