Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

Cancer Cell Signaling

Program co-leaders
Andrew C. Larner, M.D., Ph.D.
Sarah Spiegel, Ph.D. 

The Cancer Cell Signaling (CCS) program at VCU Massey Cancer Center consists of a multidisciplinary group of 22 investigators from eight academic departments from the School of Medicine, the School of Dentistry and the College of Humanities and Sciences who share a common interest in elucidating the cellular and molecular signaling events that are dysregulated during neoplastic transformation and progression and in developing methodologies to target these cancer-specific signaling events. 

Scientific goals

  • Examining the role of bioactive lipids in cancer cell signaling
  • Identifying key signaling networks of cell growth, cell death, apoptosis, ER stress and autophagy that are perturbed in cancer cells
  • Understanding the interactions among metabolites, inflammation, bioenergetics and the microenvironment that affect tumorigenesis

By achieving a greater understanding of cancer cell signaling, the initial goal of these themes is to identify potential therapeutic strategies and to move them into preclinical testing. The ultimate goal of these themes is to develop rational bases for combining interventions using these targets in a patient-specific, precision medicine manner and to translate them into more effective therapeutics.

The CCS program has a strong commitment to training. The CCS program develops and cultivates intra- and inter-programmatic interactions through regular meetings among the program membership, as well as focused discussion groups with overlapping research interests, monthly invited seminars and an annual retreat. These approaches have led to numerous collaborations that yield novel approaches and collaborative grants as funding sources.

The success of this broad, interdisciplinary approach to cancer research is evident from the track record of CCS program investigators, with 424 publications since 2011, of which 20% represent intra-programmatic collaborations, 36% are inter-programmatic collaborations and 16% represent both intra- and inter-programmatic collaborations. Moreover, the CCS program has developed a number of initiatives that have progressed from basic laboratory studies to nine phase 1 or 2 clinical trials.