Mechanisms controlling epithelial–mesenchymal transition related tumor heterogeneity.

cancer • stem cell biology • epithelial–mesenchymal transition

Cédric Blanpain is professor at the Université libre de Bruxelles. He heads the Stem Cells and Cancer Laboratory,which studies the role of stem cells in development, homeostasis and cancer. He studies the stem cells involved in development and tissue repair processes, and traces the “fate” of these cells, i.e. the process whereby they differentiate and form the tissues. He uses the same methods to uncover the cells that cause common human cancers and to understand the mechanisms behind tumour heterogeneity, metastasis and resistance to therapy.

This project focuses on epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT), a process whereby tissue cells lose their epithelial properties and acquire mesenchymal characteristics. The EMT is associated with tumour initiation, invasion, metastasis and resistance to therapy. During his previous WELBIO project, Cédric Blanpain and his colleagues notably demonstrated that the EMT is not a binary process, but occurs through distinct cellular states including hybrid epithelial and mesenchymal states. New models were designed and will enable, during the course of this new project, a more detailed study of EMT molecular mechanisms, metastatic progression and resistance to therapy, with a focus on a number of key molecular players. This project will uncover new therapeutic opportunities to treat cancer.

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