Tumor Biology and Microenvironment Research Program

Tumor Biology and Microenvironment Research Program


Tumor metastasis is the predominant cause of cancer mortality and drug resistance. The goals of the Tumor Biology and Microenvironment (TBM) Program include identifying and exploiting the cellular and molecular determinants that drive and facilitate the interaction between tumor and its microenvironments, and developing and testing innovative diagnosis and treatment strategies to ultimately eradicate invasive and metastatic cancer. These goals are met within three themes which encompass a comprehensive scope of basic, preclinical and clinical research that provides the depth and flexibility of intra-programmatic collaborations, supports the institute-wide and multi-institutional team science initiatives and fosters the development of new strategic focuses. The first theme focuses on the identification of molecular, cellular determinants of invasive and metastatic tumors. Our investigators study novel mechanistic paradigms underlying the causative involvement of novel genetic, epigenetic, and signaling pathways in tumorigenecity, tumor phenotypical plasticity, and tumor drug response. Our investigators conduct translational research to evaluate the potential clinical application of these molecular determinants as tumor markers and/or therapeutic targets. The second theme is to identify and exploit the mechanisms that underlie the invasive behaviors at different steps of metastasis. Our members conduct multidisciplinary collaboration that identified an extracellular proteolysis/signaling network that enable tumor cells to adapt to and eventually overcome the varying microenvironments, especially at the site of bone metastasis. Key molecules in this network are currently tested as a signature to predict prostate cancer progression and treatment outcome. The third theme is to identify and exploit host immune response to tumor progression. In preclinical and clinical studies, our members explore the application of tumor vaccine and antibody-armed activated T-cells in treating several types of cancer, while our members continue to identify, evaluate and utilize adaptive cellular and humoral immune responses as novel therapeutic targets. Our investigators also study the role of mesenchyme and innate immune cells in tumor progression and therapeutic response. Emerging focus of our program includes novel organ-specific delivery strategy and B cells-based immunotherapy.

Scientific Themes

scientific theme for tumor biology

Program Leaders

  • Kay-Uwe Wagner, Ph.D.
    Kay-Uwe Wagner, Ph.D.

    Tumor Biology & Microenvironment Program Leader
    Lloyd and Marilyn Smith Endowed Chair for Breast Cancer Research
    Professor, Department of Oncology
    Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute
    Wayne State University School of Medicine
    Office: 313-578-4334