Professor of Pharmacology
More than 10 million people are diagnosed with cancer every year and by 2020 it is estimated that 15 million new cases will be diagnosed each year. In 2005 cancer caused 7.6 million deaths world-wide. In the United States, it is estimated that cancer has now eclipsed heart disease as the leading cause of death as one in four US deaths are cancer related.
Despite the increasing prevalence of cancer, improvements in the detection and treatment of most types of cancers have resulted in significantly increased survival rates. For many patients, pain is the first sign of cancer and the majority of individuals will experience moderate to severe pain during the course of their disease and into survivorship. Interestingly, several therapies that are given to control pain also appear to have significant effects on tumor growth and metastasis and thus may not only relieve pain but increase survival of cancer patients.
My lab looks to understand why cancer cells preferentially metastasize to specific organs such as the bone, what role nerves that innervate the bone play in tumor metastasis to bone, and to develop a mechanism-based understanding and therapies to prevent the metastasis of tumors to bone, the growth of tumors in bone and reduce the severe pain that tumor metastases can cause. Findings from these studies may provide mechanistic insight and allow the development of new therapies, which may improve the quality of life and survival of cancer patients.