Our overall story: We are a lab in its infancy – just beginning to sprout you might say. That’s not to say we don’t know what we’re doing! I have been studying angiogenesis and cancer for quite some time, but only recently as “the captain of the ship”.
We are interested in how the cells that make up blood vessels (endothelial cells) interact with their outside environment, and how this interaction guides them in their movements/migration towards where they need to be, or at least where they think they need to be. Angiogenesis plays an essential role in making sure blood vessels properly vascularize healthy tissues, say as we grow in the womb, or if we need to heal a wound. In the case of cancer the processes that give rise to normal angiogenesis are “high-jacked” by the cancer – vessels migrate into the cancer and allow it to grow and this, eventually, helps cancer spread throughout the body.
So, we study the proteins (called integrins) that allow endothelial cells to migrate during angiogenesis. Historically we have studied how endothelial integrins regulate angiogenesis during the formation and progression of solid cancers and these integrins are essential in that process. Initial evidence suggested that by stopping integrins from working properly, tumours would be unable to establish a bloody supply and will die. However the first generation integrin inhibitors failed their clinical trials and our goal is to understand exactly how these integrins work to try and improve integrin based anti-angiogenic therapies.