Cell-to-cell interactions control both body and organ size in metazoans. Though cell interaction has been a major focus of cell biology since the early days of cell culture (1950s-1970s), how cell-to-cell interactions stimulates differentiation, controls cell size and cell morphology, energy consumption as well as regulates response to drugs remains poorly understood. The answers to these questions are not only important to a fundamental understanding of cell communication but also have unappreciated relevance in diseases such as cancer, inflammation, aging, metabolic and neurological disorders. I am interested in pursuing some of these less studied questions in cell biology by integrating recently developed proteomics and computational methods with specific cellular systems.
Metastasis is responsible for as much as 90% of cancer-associated mortality; yet progress has remained slow in developing effective drugs either specifically targeting metastasis or targeting cells with metastatic potential. Although there are numerous studies showing the migratory potential of metastatic cells and relating metastasis to the biology of the epithelial-mesenchymal transition, little is known about how tumor cells engage this fundamental cellular program. My recent work provides evidence that Fzd2 is an oncogene and that overexpression of Fzd2 and signaling via a novel noncanonical Wnt pathway contributes to the progression of metastatic cancers.