Identification and characterization of recurrent tumor initiating cells

Invasive phenotype of tumor cells is regulated through genetic programs coordinated by various signal transduction pathways and transcription factors.

The main aim of our laboratory is the investigation of molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying invasive behavior of head and neck cancer (HNC) by using two model systems:

  1. in vitro culture of HNC cells, and
  2. orthotopic HNC mouse model, which integrates microsurgery as treatment of the established tumors and recapitulates the biological behavior of human HNC, particularly the post-surgical recurrence.

In vitro HNC cultures allow us to identify key molecular circuitries that govern the switch of tumor cells from proliferation to invasion. Animal models provide valuable tools to test function of these novel regulatory circuitries in invasive tumor growth, and importantly to identify critical subpopulations of tumor cells (recurrent tumor initiating cells (R-TIC)) that give rise to post-surgical recurrence.

The main focus of our research is the characterization of R-TICs and testing under in vivo conditions of the clinically-relevant treatment strategies, which particularly include chemo- and immunotherapy directed against residual tumor cells.

Our current functional studies have provided experimental evidence that the transcription factor FOXM1 is involved in the regulation of transition between an invasive and proliferative phenotype. We aim to elucidate the role of FOXM1 in this process, and set up methodologies to understand the mechanism underlying FOXM1´s contribution to invasive growth of HNC cells. Our ultimate goal is the development of new therapeutic strategies for the treatment of highly invasive cancers. Therefore, our research, funded by SNF and ORL Department, is dedicated to provide both in vitro and in vivo disease models resembling the various stages of head and neck cancer, allowing translation of new biological principals to clinical strategies toward current and future treatments and treatment combinations, thus helping to individualize therapy.


Our research team publications are presented in full in UniSciences, the University of Lausanne Research Database.

 Last updated on 24/05/2018 at 14:44