Cancer invasion, membrane trafficking, cytoskeleton, systems biology, secreted exosomes, extracellular RNA
Cancer metastasis--the spread of cancer cells to distant organs--is what kills the majority of cancer patients. In order for cells to metastasize, they must acquire an invasive and motile phenotype, degrading and moving through tissue barriers. In addition, they must be able to survive and grow at distant sites in the body. The Weaver laboratory studies all aspects of this process. We are particularly focused on how secretion of small extracellular vesicles called exosomes from cells promotes aggressive, invasive behavior and facilitates tumor growth and metastasis. Current projects include: 1) Function of exosomes in cell migration and invasion; 2) The role of exosome secretion in additional tumor phenotypes; 3) How RNAs and proteins are trafficked to extracellular vesicles; and 4) How release of extracellular vesicles from cells is controlled, especially in response to deregulation of signaling in cancer cells. We use a variety of approaches, including live imaging and other microscopy approaches, in vivo tumor studies, biochemical purification and analysis, and bioinformatics/systems approaches.