Cancer is a complex disease that touches the lives of many. Although it is difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of cancer, the underlying theme is unregulated cell division. Our research focuses on discovering new ways to target improper cellular processes.

New paradigms in cancer biology implicate cancer stem cells (CSCs) as being a major culprit in sustaining metastatic bone, breast and brain cancer. Although rapidly dividing cells can be destroyed by radiation and chemotherapy treatment, CSCs effectively evade these measures. New approaches that specifically target CSCs would provide a powerful approach for eradicating tumors and preventing metastasis. This line of research is aimed at specifically isolating and characterizing CSCs from human tumors. Overall, we would like to investigate the molecular mechanisms by which CSCs support metastatic disease. To implement this discovery-driven initiative, we use a multidisciplinary approach that combines the principles of cancer biology, material science and high-resolution Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM).

Affinity capture devices can be designed to isolate blood, breast or brain CSCs from primary cultures based on the presence of the Notch receptor. The Notch receptor is a large adhesive protein found in high abundance on the surface of CSCs. Affinity devices can be decorated with antibodies or ligands that bind to the Notch receptor then used to isolate CSCs for high-resolution imaging. Isolated CSCs can be genetically and structurally characterized to provide the molecular basis for understanding aberrant signaling complexes involved in metastatic cancer.