The Role of Intra-and-Inter-Cellular Communication Mechanisms in Cancer Stem Cell Maintenance

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Thursday, April 7, 2016 - 4:30pm

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Glioblastoma (GBM) remains one of the most devastating diseases, despite maximal treatments consisting of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Therapeutic failure is due in large part to the inability to surgically debulk all tumor cells, which are often invasive. GBM cellular heterogeneity also contributes to recurrence via the presence of a population of cancer stem cells (CSCs) with self-renewal properties, the ability to propagate tumors, increased invasiveness, and resistance to radiation and chemotherapy. CSCs reside in distinct anatomical locations and interact with a specialized microenvironment (or niche). Localized communication with niche components influences the position of a cell within the tumor hierarchy and impacts invasion and resistance to chemo- and radio-therapies. Recent work has demonstrated the importance both of direct cell-cell communication to drive CSC maintenance as well as communication between CSCs and infiltrating immune cells that results in alterations in the immune microenvironment. Progress in these areas will be discussed along with leveraging these molecular mechanisms to other advanced cancers, including breast cancer that remains among the most lethal and aggressive tumor types.


Dr. Justin Lathia leads a translational cancer stem cell research laboratory and Assistant Professor in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the Lerner Research Institute, part of the Cleveland Clinic. He is also an Assistant Professor of Molecular Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University and is a Member of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Lathia is also an Adjunct Faculty Member in the Department of Biological, Geological, and Environmental Sciences at Cleveland State University.

Dr. Lathia was born and raised in Central Pennsylvania and received a B.S. and M.S. from Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA in 2003. While at Drexel, he developed targeted ultrasound contrast agents which preferentially bound to newly formed vessel in breast cancer models under the guidance of Dr. Margaret Wheatley.  As part of the NIH-Cambridge Graduate Partnership Program, Dr. Lathia completed his doctoral dissertation at both the National Institutes of Health and Cambridge University in the U.K. with Drs. Mark Mattson, Mahendra Rao, and Charles ffrench-Constant.  His worked focused on the role of cell adhesion molecules during the development of the nervous system.  After completing his Ph.D. in 2008 he completed post-doctoral fellowships at Duke and the Cleveland Clinic with Dr. Jeremy Rich where he focused on the role of cell adhesion in regulating cancer stem cells in brain tumors. In 2012, Dr. Lathia moved to the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine as an independent investigator and the work in his lab focuses on how the stem cell state is regulated in advanced cancers. Projects in the Lathia lab involve understanding how cancer stem cells interact with their surrounding microenvironment as well as one another with the goal of identifying unique pathways for therapeutic development.

Dr. Lathia has co-authored over 95 publications and work in his lab is currently supported by multiple National Institutes of Health grants (K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award, R01 and R21 research grants), The American Cancer Society, the Sontag Foundation, Cleveland Clinic Product Development Fund, and Lerner Research Institute. His lab has previously received funding from the Ohio Cancer Research Associates, V Foundation for Cancer Research in the form of a V Scholar Award, Voices Against Brain Cancer, and an American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grant to the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Lathia also contributes as a peer reviewer to over 65 journals, has served on multiple grant review panels for the National Institutes of Health and private foundations such as the Maryland Stem Cell Foundation, and recently served as a co-organizer for the inaugural cancer stem cell meeting held in Cleveland in August 2014, which drew over 300 attendees from over 25 states and 15 countries.