College of Veterinary Medicine
According to cancer stem cell models, tumors can originate in tissue stem cells, progenitor cells, or differentiated tissue cells through deregulation of the normally tightly regulated processes of self-renewal and acquired dedifferentiation. Cancer stem cells (CSCs) share the self-renewal and multipotent progenitor potential of normal stem cells, albeit aberrantly, giving rise to a heterogeneous population of tumor cells. Relapse of cancer patients after remission is likely due to failure to eradicate CSCs through current treatments. Thus, identifying CSCs and targeting of pathways necessary for their survival and invasiveness may provide better treatments for cancer patients. These researchers will use existing, online gene array and RNA-seq databases (GEO, TCGA, etc.) of head and neck cancer in comparison to expression data from CSC populations generated in their laboratory to identify potential targets affecting growth, survival, invasion, and differentiation pathways in these cells. These data will be used to examine new targets and to design new targeted therapies that specifically zero in on the CSC population of head and neck tumors. The researchers will also examine CSCs in the context of chemoresistance associated with disease recurrences.