Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Ashley Bakhoum, PhD
Targeting metastasis-initiating cells in lung adenocarcinoma
Most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis - the recurrence of disease in organs distant from the primary tumor site. Cancer cells may leave the primary tumor and spread throughout the body very early in disease progression, even before a patient’s initial diagnosis and treatment. A subset of cells that survive the stress of spreading to a new environment may lie dormant for months to years before initiating a metastatic outgrowth. They are stem-like and often resist anti-cancer therapies, which primarily target dividing cells. The biology underlying these metastasis-initiating cells in lung cancer is poorly understood. This proposal utilizes single-cell sequencing and multiplexed imaging approaches to identify where these metastasis-initiating cells reside and how they survive, evolve, and continuously evade detection by our innate immune defense system. A major problem facing the treatment of lung cancer is the emergence of metastasis or drug resistance arising from tumor cell heterogeneity. By tackling single cell heterogeneity head-on, this proposal aims to transform how we define, think about, and treat lung cancer - ultimately, to develop therapies that may eradicate or control metastasis from its earliest stages of inception.