EMT, Cancer Progression, and Metastasis

Lab Research Overview

Cancer Progression & Metastasis

Much of the research in the laboratory is focused on the phenotypic plasticity of carcinoma cells, enabling them to transit between alternative phenotypic states arrayed along the epithelial (E)-mesenchymal (M) spectrum. These phenotypic transitions are orchestrated by the cell-biological program termed the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Our previous work had shown that mammary epithelial cells that have activated an EMT program acquire stemness, that is, an ability to generate entire normal mammary glands in the context of normal mammary epithelial cells and an ability to generate tumors and thus serve as tumor-initiating cells/cancer stem cells in the context of neoplastic mammary epithelial cells.

Importantly, understanding the EMT program holds major implications for the understanding of human carcinoma progression. Activation of this program confers elevated resistance to various types of therapy and drives the development of an immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment (TME). In addition, the EMT program enables cells to physically disseminate from primary carcinomas and imparts to those cells tumor-initiating ability, which appears, in turn, to be tightly coupled to their ability to found new metastatic colonies at sites of dissemination.

Areas of Study

Research in the laboratory is focused on the molecular mechanisms that control carcinoma progression and metastasis, covering three broad areas.

Robert Weinberg on cancer prevention and cures

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The Whitehead Institute believes diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) are integral to its values and mission. As a research Institute dedicated to improving human health through biomedical science, we believe that diverse thought invokes creative inquiry, drives innovation, and fuels scientific breakthroughs. We welcome all individuals of all backgrounds including race, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, age, veterans status, national origin, disability, marital status, parental status, socioeconomic status, and/or origin.

Our commitments include:

    • Improving hiring, retention, and promotion of diverse talent
    • Creating and maintaining an inclusive culture that promotes physical and mental well-being and respect for all Whitehead community members
    • Developing partnerships to increase engagement and outreach with local communities to improve accessibility, particularly for individuals from groups underrepresented in biomedical science
    • Encouraging open dialogue and facilitating learning opportunities to address DE&I topics available to the entire Whitehead community