Metastasis, the process by which a tumour spreads, is the most devastating feature of cancer. A variety of processes contribute to metastasis, including the ability of tumour cells to crawl and invade through tissue and the formation of a blood supply to feed the tumour and provide an escape route for the cells.
These processes are directly regulated by molecules, on the cell surface, which control the way cells sense and respond to their surrounding environment: adhesion and growth factor receptors. So these receptors are attractive targets for cancer therapy. However, drugs that target them have had very variable results in the clinic. One reason for this is that these molecules don’t just work in isolation but actually communicate with one-another to control when they each are stimulated. So, for example, a drug targeting one of the adhesion receptors can actually stimulate a growth factor receptor and make cancer worse.To develop new strategies to combat cancer, it is essential that we know exactly how these different receptors talk to one-another. We are using a range of advanced proteomics and imaging techniques to identify exactly how the receptors communicate with each other and how this controls tumour invasion.
Ultimately, this knowledge will help us identify new drug targets and treatment strategies