PhD thesis “Molecular genetics of Hereditary Non-Polyposis Colorectal Cancer”
The “Laboratory for Stem Cell and Cancer Research” is a research group associated with the Cancer Institute of the Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The main research goal of our laboratory is the elucidation of the molecular and cellular basis of tumor initiation and progression, and the translation of these mechanisms into preventive and therapeutic intervention.
More in particular, our overall approach to cancer research is to establish a parallel between the organization of normal tissues and that of tumor masses. In organs like the intestine, skin, and blood, highly dynamic processes take place where aged cells are continuously being replaced by new ones. Adult stem cells located within these tissues and organs are responsible for this critical turnover. Stem cells give rise to more specialized cells which are programmed to take care of specific functions (e.g. digest food and absorb nutrients; deliver oxygen to distant tissues; etc.) and to eventually die after a defined lag of time. Within these high turnover tissues a tightly controlled equilibrium is maintained so that new cells are generated to replace the dying ones. In order to maintain this equilibrium even in situations of stress (e.g. inflammation, wounding, etc.), stem cells are not alone. They are usually surrounded by other specialized cells which form a niche that insulates stem cells and mediates their response to external cues. This is of great relevance as upon tissue injury stem cells need to increase their production to balance cell loss in response to signals from the niche.
We believe that this so called hierarchical (pyramidal) organization of our normal tissues and organs is conserved within tumor masses with cancer stem cells (CSCs) at the very top of this hierarchy. Likewise, the niche of CSCs is essential to determine their capacity to proliferate, invade surrounding tissues, and eventually colonize distant organ sites, the so-called metastases. By comparing normal and cancer stem cells and by studying the CSC niche, we hope to identify key molecular and cellular mechanisms to be specifically targeted in future therapies.
We are a team of young (with the exception of the PI!) and enthusiastic scientists from different regions of the world working as master (MSc) or PhD students, postdoctoral fellows, and research technicians. I do hope that you will enjoy visiting our web site and that the visit will inspire you, notwithstanding your background and motivations.
And if you’d like to, please drop a note and share your ideas, comments, and criticisms with us.
Riccardo Fodde, PhD
Website developed by Alberto Massidda, Milan