Research in the Farkas group involves the development and use of molecular tools in order to study, image, and treat cancer subtypes. Significant advances have been made in understanding and treating cancer, however, there remain many unknowns, especially in the arena of how and why particular diseases become aggressive and metastasize. We are specifically interested in the roles that macrophages, and separately, altered circadian rhythms, play in cancer. Our work has focused on their investigation via generation and use of platforms that enable detection and tracking in biologically-relevant models, followed by perturbation and study of those systems with small molecules. Macrophages have the ability to interconvert between immune stimulating- and suppressing-subtypes, and are recruited and contribute to oncogenic microenvironments. Because many breast tumors generate macrophage chemoattractants, we are taking advantage of this characteristic and developing cell-based imaging and drug delivery agents via chemical modification of the cells' surfaces. We are also engineering macrophages to possess reporters in order to discern phenotypes, and probing phenotypic conversion via small molecules. My research program is also involved in determining the significance of circadian rhythms in breast cancer. Epidemiological evidence has shown that alteration of circadian rhythms is correlated with worse patient prognosis and drug resistance. We are assessing circadian rhythms in cell culture models of cancer, and using small molecules to modulate these rhythms in an effort to understand the link between altered circadian rhythms and disease. Our work is intended to not only shed new light on contributors to cancer, but also provide new targets and drugs for treatments.
Speaker: Michelle Farkas, Univ of Massachusets, Amherst
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