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Research Program - Tumor Microenvironment and Invasion

Program Mission

To promote collaborative research to understand how cancer cells interact with the surrounding tissue stroma, vasculature, and immune system, in order to develop more effective targeted treatments to inhibit cancer progression.

Program Focus

The ability of cancer cells to invade into the surrounding normal tissue, avoid the immune system, and escape into the circulation to colonize distant organs, are hallmarks of cancer malignancy and represent the worst prognostic factors for survival of patients with solid tumors. Cell invasion away from the original tumor site is the single most defining feature of cancer progression and involves a "hijacking" of the tumor microenvironment that manifests in multiple processes: increased deposition and remodeling of the extracellular matrix by cancer-associated stromal cells; co-option of pre-existing blood vessels and induction of novel vascular networks; evasion of immune responses; and subversion of innate immune cells to assist tumor invasion and colonization; among others.

Achieving a more complete understanding of these processes at the molecular, cellular, and system level will be critical in the development of better therapeutic strategies to inhibit cancer progression. To this end, the program emphasizes mechanistic cellular and molecular biology approaches, specializing in tissue-mimicking culture models, high-end real-time microscopy, pharmacological screens, and next generation sequencing analysis, in combination with novel transgenic models of breast, pancreas, prostate, liver, and brain cancers. The Program's goal is to bring together leading NIH- and NSF-funded cancer researchers focusing on complementary aspects of cancer initiation, vascularization, inflammation, invasion, metastasis, and therapeutic resistance. Collaborative initiatives involving Upstate Cancer Center clinicians foster translational opportunities to validate key findings as predictors of cancer progression and risk, paving the way for drug development and clinical trials of biomarkers and novel therapeutics.


Christopher Turner, PhDChristopher Turner, PhD
Cell and Developmental Biology

Mariano Viapiano, PhDMariano Viapiano, PhD
Neuroscience and Physiology

See all program members