Wnt signaling and skin cancer; Merkel cell carcinoma pathogenesis
Monique Verhaegen, PhD and Andrzej A. Dlugosz, MD
Dr. Verhaegen carries out research in the laboratory of Dr. Andrzej Dlugosz whose laboratory's long-term goal is to gain a better understanding of how embryonic signaling pathways control normal growth and development, and how deregulation of these pathways can lead to pathological responses including cancer. One of their main interests is the Hedgehog (Hh) signaling pathway; trying to understand how normal signaling regulates various embryonic processes including hair follicle development, whereas deregulated signaling leads to basal cell carcinoma of the skin as well as a subset of internal tumors. Because recent studies from this laboratory have established a central role for the canonical Wnt/Beta-catenin signaling pathway in Hh pathway-driven growth of benign skin tumors, Dr. Verhaegen is now exploring the interaction between these pathways in the development and maintenance of malignant skin tumors. Dr. Verhaegen is also developing a separate research program studying mechanisms associated with the pathogenesis of Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), a rare, but highly aggressive skin cancer.