SIGNALLING IN CELL MIGRATION AND METASTASIS
I have developed extensive work studying signalling mediated by the Rho family of small GTPases and their regulators and effectors. These proteins play a major role in the control of cell migration, invasion and adhesion, both in normal physiology and under pathological situations. I am interested in how these proteins, and the signalling pathways they govern, are integrated to control processes that contribute to metastatic dissemination in cancers of diverse origin. To unravel this, I use a combination of microscopy cell-based assays, biochemistry and gene expression analysis.
NEUROBLASTOMA BIOLOGY AND THERAPEUTICS
Neuroblastoma is a pediatric cancer with origin in the sympathoadrenal lineage of the neural crest. It is characterized by a great heterogeneity and, in its aggressive forms, presents recurrent metastatic tumours with no treatment to date. We are trying to gain new insights into neuroblastoma biology in order to impact future treatment and improve patient outcomes. Our approach takes into consideration the neural crest origin of the tumour, characterized by motile cells with a great plasticity, and the impact they have on disease progression. We also study the effect of hipoxia on tumour initiation and progression. We use a combination of cell assays, stem cells culture, animal models and human tumour expression analysis.
TARGET DISCOVERY AND VALIDATION
I am interested in finding new molecular targets and prognostic markers with potential therapeutical value, specially for pediatric cancers, where preventative medicine is not possible and the tools available for cancer treatment are scarce. With this aim, I am also collaborating with Dr. Donald L. Durden and his drug discovery research team at UC San Diego, USA.
HIGH-CONTENT IMAGE ANALYSIS
I make extensive use of microscopy-based cellular assays and live microscopy in 2D and 3D to study different processes, from cell migration to differentiation. I have also an interest in functional screenings and high-content image analysis to extract meaningful biological information from microscopy images.
I maintain active collaborations in specific projects with the following researchers:
- Dr M Carmen Durán. Dpt. of Biomedicine. Universidad de Cádiz, ES. Endothelial progenitor cells for repair and matrix remodelling in cardiovascular diseases.
- Prof. Pedro A. Lazo. Cancer Research Center, Salamanca, ES. VRK biology in disease and cancer stem cells.
- Dr Donald Durden. UC San Diego, USA. Drug discovery with dual inhibitors for the treatment of pediatrics tumours.
- Prof. Anne J. Ridley. Bristol University, UK. Rho GTPases isoform specificity in cancer biology.
- Prof. Frank Westermann. Group leader neuroblastoma genomics. DKFZ, Heidelberg, GE.