Tumour Progression and Heterogeneity Laboratory

Dr Delphine Merino

Studying the interactions between malignant breast cancer cells and normal cells from the tumour microenvironment

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in women. While many drugs have been developed over the past decades for the treatment of the disease, once breast cancer cells have spread to distant organs, it is difficult to treat. The objective of this PhD project is to understand how normal and malignant cells interact in different organs, and how these interactions can be targeted to stop the growth of metastatic lesions.

Our previous work, and work from others, have shown that breast cancer clones have different levels of ‘fitness’ depending on the tumour microenvironment. Using innovative technologies such as imaging, single cell sequencing and cellular barcoding, our laboratory is studying the survival and proliferation of malignant cells in different tissues, to propose new effective strategies to prevent or stop the progression of the disease.

Human cancer clones will be labelled with cellular barcodes by lentiviral infection and the behaviour of the clones will be studied in different tissues and conditions. These models will be used to identify the transcriptomic profile of malignant cells that are likely to cause metastatic recurrence and identify gene pathways that are influenced by normal cells from the tumour environment. In particular, we will focus on ‘druggable’ pathways, that could be exploited in cancer therapy. These findings will be further validated using drug assays.