Research

Johanna Joyce Lab research

Research

Our research focuses on the microenvironment in which a tumor arises and the critical influence that non-cancerous stromal and immune cells can have on tumor progression, metastasis and response to therapy.  We investigate both positive and negative signals provided by the normal tissue stroma to the cancer cells, and elucidate how normal cells can be modified by the cancer cells to produce a variety of factors that enhance tumor malignancy.

A major current focus of the lab is to identify the mechanisms by which cells in the microenvironment regulate the later stages of tumor progression, namely invasion and metastasis (see below). Moreover, emerging evidence indicates that stromal cells are mobilized and activated following various anti-cancer therapies, and contribute to a lack of response/ resistance to treatment. Tumors that recover from harsh cytotoxic assaults must engage programs of matrix remodeling, neo-angiogenesis, and cell repopulation, all processes that typically involve stromal cells.  Our lab is identifying the mechanisms underlying the contribution of the microenvironment to therapeutic resistance, an important area of research that remains largely unexplored. 

We employ a range of complementary strategies to address these questions including mouse models of cancer, 3D co-culture systems, computational approaches, and analysis of patient samples in collaboration with our clinical colleagues. Our ultimate goal is to apply this knowledge to the clinic and develop targeted therapies that disrupt essential tumor-microenvironment interactions.