Dr. Emily Bell

Associate Research Professor

Department:  Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
College:  Eberly College of Science
Address:  208 Althouse Lab
Phone:  814-863-5867
E-mail: emilybell@psu.edu
Website: http://bmb.psu.edu/directory/esb26

Fueling Cancer Cell Migration and Metastasis
The ability of cancer cells to migrate and invade into surrounding tissue promotes the spread of cancer throughout the body (termed metastasis) and negatively impacts patient survival. Cancer cells do not perform these behaviors in isolation, but rather are strongly influenced by their surrounding environment. A cancer cell will encounter a variety of different signaling molecules, cell types, and regions of nutrient and oxygen deprivation. In addition, the cell is exposed to various physical landscapes while navigating through confining spaces and surfaces of different stiffness and curvature. As the tumor evolves to adapt to one microenvironmental input (ex. Proliferation under limited oxygen), vulnerabilities could arise in another (ex. During the energetically demanding process of squeezing through small spaces). The constitutive activation of certain pathways can be an addiction or Achilles heel in tumor cells that can be therapeutically exploited.

We are interested in understanding whether cancer cells have an impaired ability to maintain energetic homeostasis during migration through challenging physical environments. Biochemical assays and fluorescent biosensors will be used to quantify cellular energy, viability, and the activation of stress response pathways as normal cells and cancer cells are induced to migrate and navigate collagen gels and microfluidics devices that mimic the 3-dimensional tumor microenvironment.

The techniques the student will likely learn include tissue culture, transfection, microscopy, image analysis methods, and Western blotting. Training will also include attention to experimental design and reproducible and robust data collection.