My group focuses on understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms that promote cancer cell plasticity and adaptation in the metastatic niche. By using dynamic analyses of the tumour microenvironment and metastatic niche in human samples and preclinical models, in conjunction with single cell-omics, spatial proteomics and sophisticated computational analyses, we aim to achieve a systems-level understanding of the molecular circuits and cellular crosstalk driving metastasis.
Metastasis is the major cause of cancer-related mortality, yet this complex process remains the least understood part of cancer biology. To colonise distant organs, circulating tumour cells must invade into surrounding tissues, intravasate into the circulatory system, extravasate through vascular walls into the parenchyma of distant tissues, form micrometastasis, and finally proliferate into clinically detectable metastatic lesions. During this multi-step process, in addition to the tumour cell intrinsic plasticity, local niche factors from stromal and immune cells influence tumour cell phenotypes and likewise, distinct cancer phenotypes shape the tumour microenvironment. Our aim is to understand how cancer cells adapt to the metastatic niche and how in turn, immune and stromal cells support tumour cell plasticity and metastasis formation.
We employ a multidisciplinary approach that integrates computational and experimental strategies. Through collaborations with clinicians and researchers, we have access to patient samples and preclinical models, focusing on melanoma and breast cancer. By integrating single-cell multi-omics data, imaging and computational methods, our lab aims to dissect the microenvironmental cues and cell-cell communication networks that promote metastasis. The main areas of focus are:
Our overarching goal is to identify key targets that drive metastasis formation and find potential therapeutic strategies that disrupt crucial tumour-microenvironment interactions.
Targeting immune checkpoints potentiates immunoediting and changes the dynamics of tumor evolution Efremova M, Rieder D, Klepsch V et al. Nature Communications (2018) 9(7)
Single-cell reconstruction of the early maternal–fetal interface in humans Vento-Tormo R, Efremova M, Botting RA et al. Nature (2018) 563(7) 347-353For additional publications, please click here