Distinguished Scientific Fellow
Van Andel Research Institute
Grand Rapids, Michigan
In order for a tumor to spread (a process called metastasis), tumor cells must be able to break through tissue barriers, enter the circulation and become established in a new site. To achieve these steps, a tumor cell must acquire unique physical and molecular properties. The laboratories of Drs. Vande Woude, Graveel and Tsarfaty have combined several unique models to evaluate how the Met oncogene influences breast cancer metastasis, metabolism, and therapeutic resistance in breast cancer. Their recent results revealed that simultaneous inhibition of glucose metabolism and Met signaling can reduce both tumor growth and blood flow throughout the tumor. They have also discovered that Met is highly expressed in HER2+ and triple negative breast cancers and may be a mechanism of drug resistance and a promising therapeutic target. They are continuing to study how Met influences HER2+ and triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) progression using a combination of novel imaging techniques and mathematical models. In the coming year, the research team will decipher how Met interacts with other cell receptors and signaling pathways to promote tumor spread and how Met inhibition can sensitize tumor cells to standard chemotherapeutic agents. They plan to test combination therapies against TNBC progression and metastasis in patient-derived TNBC models. Overall, these studies will have a significant impact on our understanding of how Met signaling influences cell invasion, metabolism, and therapeutic response and help to inform possible new targeted approaches to decrease drug resistance.
Dr. George F. Vande Woude received his M.S. (1962) and PhD (1964) from Rutgers University. From 1964-1972, he served first as a postdoctoral research associate, then as a research virologist for the US Department of Agriculture at Plum Island Animal Disease Center. In 1972, he joined the National Cancer Institute and from 1983-1998 was the Director of the Advanced Bioscience Laboratories-Basic Research Program. In 1993, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and served as Chair of the Section for Medical Genetics, Hematology & Oncology (2004-2007). In 1999, he became the first Director of Van Andel Research Institute (VARI), a position he held until February 2009. He is currently a Distinguished Scientific Fellow at VARI.
Since the 1970s Dr. Vande Woude’s laboratory research has focused on understanding the molecular basis of cancer. Dr. Vande Woude’s laboratory was first to determine the structure and enhancer function of proviral long terminal repeats (LTR) and the first to demonstrate that a normal cellular protooncogene could be activated as an oncogene. These findings provided a foundation for the search for active oncogenes in tumors. In 1984, Dr. Vande Woude discovered human Met oncogene, a member of the tyrosine kinase growth factor receptor family that is altered in the majority of cancers. In addition to many basic scientific discoveries, his laboratory has also generated novel tools to help with drug development. Currently, his lab is developing novel preclinical models for evaluating the efficacy of tyrosine kinase inhibition in cancer patients.