Letter from the Chair

Lisa Coussens headshot

The overarching mission of the OHSU Department of Cell, Developmental & Cancer Biology is to advance the understanding of problems relevant to human health and disease.  To accomplish this mission, research groups in the department have historically focused on questions regarding cell structure, organelles, life cycle, differentiation, and regulated communication between cells and extracellular signals and cues.  An ultimate application of knowledge gained from these studies has been to understand important cell physiologic processes that effect human biology.  These issues directly link to problems of interest to developmental biologists, including molecular and cellular mechanisms regulating tissue morphogenesis, tissue polarity and patterning.  More recently, it has become clear that mechanisms underlying cancer development also represent important aspects of cell and developmental biology that have gone awry.  Thus, building bridges between researchers working in cell, developmental and/or cancer biology disciplines enables an interactive and exciting multi-disciplinary environment providing unique opportunities for reciprocal and collaborative investigations and cutting-edge biomedical research.
With my recruitment as Chair of the Cell, Developmental & Cancer Biology Department, and Associate Director for Basic Research in the Knight Cancer Institute, OHSU is making a significant investment in new research programs focused on Cancer Biology, that also encompass research themes common to Cell and Developmental Biology disciplines.  Over the next several years, research within the department will expand to include interactive and multidisciplinary research programs investigating the nature of extracellular matrix molecules, stromal and stem cells, and paracrine signaling pathways that regulate tissue and organ development, and that also play a key role in regulating aspects of cancer development. Understanding how these molecules/cells/pathways are altered during tumor progression, and how these reciprocally influence tumor initiation, progression, metastasis and response to therapy will guide development of the next generation of anti-cancer agents, that may also be applicable towards other types of chronic disease.  This expanded focus will help to realize a new generation of diagnostics tests and/or improved therapeutic targets for clinical evaluation.

Lisa M. Coussens