with Quantitative Biology and Engineering
Who we are
We are an interdisciplinary team of scientists, engineers and biologists committed to understanding cancer as a complex dynamic system.
The 'War on Cancer’ was formally declared before any members of our lab were born. But despite more drug options and better targeted therapies, the age-adjusted death rate from cancer has decreased little in the past 45 years.
One answer is that there are basic, fundamental properties of cell populations that we don’t understand because they have not been well studied. These include:
Heterogeneity is an essential property of all living systems. Tumors exhibit enormous cellular heterogeneity, at the genetic level and even more so at the non-genetic level. We investigate the mechanistic role of heterogeneity in tumor initiation, progression, and therapeutic response.
Another rarely articulated fundamental property is cellular plasticity. Cell states and behaviors change over time. Targeting a single cell state (such as a cancer stem cell) does not necessarily eliminate that phenotype from the populations; other cells can transition to the stem-like state. We quantify transition rates and seek to build models that predict the consequences of plasticity on drug response.
In the rush to identify particular genetic mutations (which are certainly of importance), the contribution of non-genetic changes has been overlooked. A single genotype can produce numerous observable cell states. Heterogeneity and plasticity at the level of individual cells give rise to whole populations of interacting cell subtypes, with rich dynamics. We aim to develop a theory of cancer that incorporates these fundamentals; this effort may suggest new strategies for eliminating the suffering caused by this disease.
Poster Award Nov 2017 At the first annual Livestrong Cancer Center/ Dell Medical School retreat, Grant Howard was awarded Top Poster in the Graduate Student Division!
NIH Funds New Project in the Brock Lab July 2017. We're excited to announce that the lab has been awarded a three-year grant from NIH to develop a novel tool for the analysis of heterogeneous tumor cell populations. This work will be supported by the iMAT (Innovative Molecular Analysis Technologies) program of the National Cancer Institute.
Workshop on Preclinical Breast Cancer Models April 2017
Dr. Brock was an invited speaker at the Preclinical Models of Breast Cancer workshop at EPFL Lausanne in Switzerland. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet with students and postdoc visitors from across Europe and North America and to learn about their work. Thank you to Prof. Cathrin Brisken for hosting!
Congrats to new NSF Fellow! We congratulate Rebecca Ho, former undergraduate research student in the lab, on her NSF Fellowship. Rebecca is headed to MIT next fall to begin a PhD program in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (Course 6). Way to go Rebecca!
Paper Accepted! Apr 2017 Look for our upcoming manuscript in Cancer Research!
Abstracts Accepted! Feb 2017 Kaitlyn Johnson and Grant Howard will present their work on chemoresistant breast cancer at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting in Washington D.C.
International Symposium on the Breast, Dr. Susan Love Foundation, Feb 2017
Amy was an invited speaker at the 9th International Symposium on the Breast, organized by Dr. Susan Love. This was a fantastic, high-energy program with many opportunities for discussions among the 125 participants. Thank you to Dr. Love for bringing together this group, which included some of the most innovative scientists in the cancer field.