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. Drs. Vande Woude, Graveel and Tsarfaty are conducting laboratory studies in tumor cell invasion, metabolism, and drug resistance, important drivers in breast cancer metastasis. They have identified a key signaling protein called Met that is important in tumor cell metabolism and have linked this protein and its signaling activity to the promotion of tumor cell motility. They are using a combination of novel imaging techniques and mathematical models to study how Met is working in experimental models of triple negative breast cancer. Information derived from these studies will 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.