Advances in treatments of childhood cancers over the last 30 years have dramatically improved local disease control. However, the cause of death for the vast majority of these cancer patients is the development of metastatic lesions at sites distant from that of the primary tumor. Despite this fact, treatment options for patients who present with or develop metastasis is limited.
The Tumor and Metastasis Biology Section of the Pediatric Oncology Branch is involved in the study of the biology and therapy of metastasis, primarily in childhood cancers. The overall goal is to identify and understand proteins and/or processes that define the metastatic phenotype of childhood solid tumors, particularly malignant cancers of the bone (osteosarcoma), and to use this understanding to improve treatment outcomes for patients.
Our approach to the problem of metastasis involves researching the development and characterization of metastasis through the use of in-vivo animal models. These models include transplantable tumor models, genetically engineered mouse models of metastasis, and naturally occurring cancers that develop in companion animals. The use of several model systems to study problems in metastasis provides an opportunity to emphasize strengths and minimize weaknesses of a single model system.
Ongoing projects by our group include:
1. Identification and evaluation of metastasis-associated genes and proteins in osteosarcoma
2. Development of in vivo assays of specific metastasis-associated processes
3. Use of 3D organ culture to observe metastasis
4. Single cell imaging and intravital imaging of metastatic cells
5. Preclinical investigation of novel antimetastatic therapeutic strategies