The Prostate Cancer Stem Cell Lab
The main focus of our lab research is to elucidate the cellular basis and molecular determinants of prostate cancer (PCa) cell heterogeneity. Our work suggests that PCa cells are not all equal with respect to their tumorigenic and metastatic potential and there exist stem-like PCa cells or prostate cancer stem cells (PCSCs) that are generally undifferentiated, have the capacity to recreate the phenotypic and functional heterogeneities present in patient tumors, and are intrinsically resistant to castrations and chemotherapeutic drugs. We have established that PCa cells are organized as a tumorigenic hierarchy with PCSCs being able to undergo asymmetric cell division and differentiate into PSA+ cells. The PCSC pool is heterogeneous containing multiple overlapping subsets of tumor cells that possess distinct tumor-initiating, tumor-propagating, and therapy-resistance capacities. The laboratory has been pursuing the following inter-connected research projects since 2002.
- Normal prostate stem/progenitor cells & the cell-of-origin of PCa
- PCSCs in xenograft & patient tumors
- PCSC involvement in metastasis
- PCSC response to androgen deprivation & other therapeutics
- PCSC self-renewal: Role of Nanog
- PCSC epigenetic landscape
- PCSC regulation by miRNAs
- PCSC asymmetric cell division
- PCSC-targeting novel therapeutics
These projects involve the use of primary human PCa samples and developing novel animal models. The ultimate goal of our research is to uncover the unique properties of PCSCs and design specific therapeutics to target them.