My laboratory studies the regulatory networks governing cell migration and programmed cell death with the goals of better understanding how these processes contribute to metastatic cancer states and how they help shape the embryo during development. We use the germ cells of Drosophila melanogaster as a model. During development, the germ cells of this fruit fly actively invade and cross an epithelial layer, move over and through multiple types of mesoderm, and then colonize a distant site, the embryonic gonad. These migratory movements and the ability to colonize secondary locations are extremely analogous to metastatic cancer cells which leave the primary tumor and move to other locations. Careful regulation of programmed cell death is another common feature of developing germ cells and metastatic cells. In the case of developing germ cells, cells that reach the gonads survive while those outside of the gonads execute a cell death program. Metastatic cells must thwart a myriad of death signals in order to establish secondary tumors. We are using forward and reverse genetic approaches, plus the tools of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology to elucidate the signaling networks mediating these fundamental biological processes.
Dr. Clark R Coffman
Area of Expertise:
programmed cell death
B.S., Zoology, Iowa State University, 1986
Ph.D., Biology, University of California, San Diego, 1993