Tumors have been dubbed as ‘wounds that never heal’ because tumors and wounds share many parallels. Specifically of interest is the active participation of stem cells and the immune system in both wounds and tumors. While it has long been known that chronic wounds predispose tissues to the development of cancer, the underlying mechanisms of how wounding increases the susceptibility of tissues to cancer remain unclear. Dr. Gonzales hypothesizes that this phenomenon occurs because stem cells retain a molecular memory of wounding, which is brought about by cooperation between specific branches of the stem cell and immune responses.
Using skin—which has multiple stem cell compartments with spatially and temporally well-defined lineages—as a model, he’s focused on dissecting how stem cells and immune cells foster this unique tumor-promoting capability of wounding. Specifically, he’s aiming to map the molecular changes that occur in skin stem cells during wounding and that are retained long after wound pathology has resolved. Furthermore, he will dissect how immune cells contribute to this memory by quantifying infiltration of various immune compartments in wounds and tumors, and examining wound-induced tumor development in immune-deficient models. By identifying the central pathways and key players involved in tumor-priming, Gonzales’s study will provide new therapeutic targets to help advance wound treatment and offer a unique angle for the development of cancer prevention strategies.
Projects and Grants
Dissecting the stem cell and immune roots of the tumorigenicity of wounds
The Rockefeller University | All Cancers | 2019 | Elaine Fuchs, Ph.D.
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