Wicha Lab: Experimental Breast Cancer Research
About Dr. Wicha's Laboratory
The Wicha laboratory is a leader in Cancer Stem Cell (CSC) biology. According to the ISI Citation Index, Dr. Wicha is among the most highly-cited investigators in the field of CSCs. His group was part of the team that first identified breast CSCs. Dr. Wicha’s laboratory identified a number of stem cell markers and developed in vitro and in vivo models to isolate and characterize these cells. These research models and resources have been widely adopted by other investigators. His laboratory subsequently elucidated a number of intrinsic and extrinsic pathways which regulate self-renewal and cell fate decisions in CSCs. Recently, the Wicha laboratory has focused on translating his pre-clinical research findings into the development of clinical trials designed to target breast CSCs.
Our research mission is the conquest of cancer through innovation and collaboration. We seek to accomplish this by creating a stimulating, collaborative research environment where M.D.’s and Ph.D.’s, medical and post-doctoral research fellows and clinicians, graduate students and undergraduates alike can come together to conceive, inspire and drive scientific innovation. Through our integrated, multi-disciplinary approach we will establish the University of Michigan as the international leader in cancer stem cell research and resulting targeted therapies.
More information about the history of the Wicha Lab is available here.
Recent developments - Translational Oncology Program
In May 2012 Dr. Wicha relocated his Experimental Breast Cancer Research Laboratories and more than forty researchers to the North Campus Research Complex (NCRC) buildings 26 and 20W and established the Translational Oncology Program (TOP). With the formation of the TOP, Dr. Wicha has engaged the interest of the best and brightest CSC researchers to the NCRC. The TOP will be directed by pioneering CSC investigator Dr. Diane Simeone, whose pancreas CSC research is world renowned. In Dr. Wicha's words, “ In many ways, the NCRC embodies the very best of Michigan and epitomizes what sets our institution apart – our ability to focus the efforts of the top minds in diverse fields to find answers to society’s greatest challenges.”
The TOP seeks to drive innovative cancer therapies and is uniquely qualified with numerous leading laboratories in CSC research. TOP investigators are presently exploring cancers of the breast, lung, pancreas, head and neck, colon, prostate and thyroid. By working together and sharing the ample scientific resources of the NCRC, TOP scientists can make progress more rapidly than would be possible by working alone. It is hoped this collaborative approach will revolutionize cancer treatments by targeting and destroying the cells responsible for disease recurrence and metastasis.
Latest from the lab
Congratulations to first authors Suthinee Ithimakin, Fayaz Malik and Kathy Day, and coauthors Zen, Dawsey, Bersano-Begley, Quraishi, Ignatoski, Daignault, Davis, Hall, Palanisamy, Heath, Tawakkol, Luther, Clouthier, Chadwick, Day, Kleer, Thomas, Hayes, Korkaya and Wicha. Their article, "HER2 drives luminal breast cancer stem cells in the absence of HER2 amplification: Implications for efficacy of adjuvant trastuzumab" was published in Cancer Research in February. In this paper, we use breast cancer cell lines, mouse xenograft models and matched human primary and metastatic tissues to show that HER2 is selectively expressed in and regulates self-renewal of the cancer stem cell population in estrogen receptor-positive, HER2 luminal breast cancers. These findings complement our earlier findings on HER-2 biology, including "Activation of an IL6 inflammatory loop mediates trastuzumab resistance in HER2+ breast cancer by expanding the stem cell population" (Molecular Cell, 2012)as well as papers in Cell Cycle (August 2012) and Clinical Cancer Research (October 2012).