Immunofluorescent image of a murine mammary carcinoma displaying vasculature (blue), regions of hypoxia (green), and areas of cell death (red).
The Coussens lab focuses on the role of immune cells and their mediators as critical regulators of cancer development. During the early development of cancer, many physiological processes occur in the vicinity of 'young tumor cells' that are similar to processes that occur during embryonic development and to healing of wounds in adult tissue, e.g., leukocyte recruitment and activation (inflammation), angiogenesis (development of new blood supply) and tissue remodeling. During tumor development however, instead of initiating a 'healing' response, activated leukocytes provide growth-promoting factors that typically help tumors grow. We are interested in understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms that regulate leukocyte recruitment into neoplastic tissue, and the subsequent regulation those leukocytes exert on evolving cancer cells. To address these issues, we have taken several approaches to investigate mechanisms involved in: i. induction and maintenance of chronic inflammatory microenvironments in premalignant, malignant and metastatic tissues using murine models of human cancer development, and clinical samples obtained fresh from the operating room from patients with cancer, ii. role of leukocytes in regulating tissue remodeling, angiogenesis, immune suppression and cancer development, iii. development of novel non-invasive imaging reagents to monitor immune response in tissues/tumors. The long-term goal of this work is to translate basic observations made in the mouse, toward rational design of novel therapeutics whose aim will be to block and/or alter rate-limiting events critical for solid tumor growth, maintenance or recurrence in humans, and/or therapeutics that enhance the efficacy of standard-of-care cytotoxic therapy. Currently, we are actively utilizing transgenic mouse models of solid tumor development (non-small cell lung cancer, non-melanoma squamous, pancreatic and breast adenocarcinoma, and mesothelioma) to reveal the functional roles of adaptive and innate leukocytes during tumor development. These experimental studies are conducted in parallel with evaluation of representative human cancer specimens to affirm that mechanisms revealed in the experimental setting represent fundamental parameters of multi-stage cancer development in humans.
Lab Manager / Research Coordinator
Jane Wiesen, Ph.D. email
Education: Ph.D., 1992 University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Dept of Cellular and Molecular Biology
Postdoctoral training at University of California, San Francisco, Department of OB/GYN and Anatomy
Christopher Chan, Ph.D.
Education: BCom (Economics), BSc (Honours, Immunology), Ph.D. (Immunology, March 2013), Monash University, Victoria, Australia
Scientific interests: Cancer immunoediting, Inflammation-driven cancer progression, Cancer immunotherapy, Innate immunity and inflammation, Tumor microenvironment, Immunogenic cell death.
Andrew Gunderson, Ph.D. email
Education: Ph.D., The Pennsylvania State University, Immunology and Infectious Disease Program. May 2012
Scientific interests: Patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas (PDAC) have extremely poor survival rates of ~ 5% after five years and chronic pancreatitis is a known risk factor for invasive malignant progression. I am interested in characterizing the infiltration of immune subsets into human pancreatic neoplasms at various stages and correlating these results to genetic defects in specific tumor suppressor pathways in order to establish a direct casual link between mutational status, inflammatory response, and disease prognosis. This work is aimed at identifying novel immune targets for PDAC therapies.
Sushil Kumar, Ph.D. email
Education: PhD, Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Munich, Germany (22 Aug 2007 Postdoc: Institute of Molecular Cancer Research, University of Zurich, Switzerland (Jan 2008-Oct 2011)
Scientific interests: My scientific interests are to understand the molecular basis of tumor related inflammation and translation of this knowledge into modern cancer therapy.
Terry Medler, Ph.D. email
Education: Ph.D., Northwestern University, Dept of Pathology, June 2012.
Scientific interests: The skin acts as both a physical and immunological barrier to a barrage of environmental insults, such as UV radiation, chemical carcinogens, and oncogenic viruses. The damage response (inflammation) is mediated by both innate and adaptive immunity to clear damaged cells and pathogens such that tissue homeostasis can be restored. When inflammation fails to resolve and instead becomes chronic, it acts as a promoting force for neoplastic progression. My interests lie in identifying mechanisms by which immune cells foster cancer development such that novel targeted immunotherapies can be developed. Other interests include identifying mechanisms by which autoimmune skin disorders (pemphigus vulgaris) occur and discovering targeted immunotherapies to help ameliorate disease with fewer side effects.
Brian Ruffell, Ph.D. email
Education: Ph.D., University of British Columbia in 2008 in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Scientific interests: Immune suppression within the tumor microenvironment with the goal of improving the efficacy of chemotherapeutics and immunotherapies.
Justin Tibbits email
Education: M.S., Biology, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology; M.B.A., Technology, University of New Mexico
Interests: family, cancer biology, geosciences, hockey, fishing and all things outdoors.
Jo Hill email
Education: Drexel University College of Medicine's Master's degree program in histotechnology.
Interests: the integration of art & science, tissue ultrastructure, and the beauty of the natural world. She is particularly intrigued with cell-to-cell connections (physical and chemical), and the intricacies of the cytoskeleton.