Tumor Signaling & Angiogenesis

The unifying theme of this program is to build translational clinical trials based on innovative and novel research projects that focus on signaling cascades leading to uncontrolled cell growth and resistance to apoptosis. The program goals are to identify dysregulated molecular signaling pathways that can be used as cancer-specific targets. Collectively the members of this program work cooperatively to study:

  • A variety of kinase targets involved in cancer cell proliferation and progression;
  • The basic underlying mechanisms whereby a variety of membrane transporters promote cancer cell survival and how these can be targeted in therapeutic strategies;
  • Growth factors and lipid signaling molecules that stimulate growth and invasion;
  • The role of G protein-coupled receptors that are involved in a variety of cancer cell functions and metabolism;
  • Epigenetic regulation of biosynthetic pathways in cancer cell metabolism and proliferation;
  • The role of the MYCN oncogene in the development of pediatric tumors;
  • Novel regulators of apoptosis.

Targets identified in this program can be exploited to develop innovative approaches to cancer prevention and therapy that can be translated into clinical trials. The research into cancer cell signaling incorporates animal models in breast and colon cancer, as well as the pediatric cancer neuroblastoma, to study how specific signaling pathways are involved in the progression of cancer.

A Developing Theme

The Augusta University medical school has a strong history in the basic underlying mechanisms of vascular biology, which is an important aspect of neovascularization in developing tumors. To complement this expertise, the Georgia Cancer Center is in the process of developing a tumor microenvironment theme within the signaling program with one emphasis on angiogenesis. This will build on the expertise in the basic biology of the vascular biology group to devise ways of understanding the mechanisms of tumor vascularization and how this is affected by the microenvironment and how novel targets for intervention can be designed and used as anti-cancer therapies. In this area, the biology of tumor angiogenesis in gliomas is a special focus, particularly as it relates to hypoxia, with a view to targeting critical molecules essential for endothelial cell function in animal models. Tumor neovascularization in these models is visualized in vivo using imaging approaches such as MRI and SPECT.