Cancer cells are surrounded by immune cells, blood vessels, chemical signals and a support matrix – collectively, the tumor microenvironment. Most microenvironments help tumors grow and metastasize, but some can restrict tumors. My lab studies how to target the bad microenvironments and support the good ones to combat cancer.
Mikala Egeblad and colleagues study tumors and, in particular, the contributions of the microenvironment in which the cancer cells arise and live. Solid tumors are abnormally organized tissues that contain not only cancer cells, but also various stromal cell types and the extracellular matrix, and these latter components constitute the microenvironment. Communications between the different components of the tumor influence its growth, its response to therapy, and its ability to metastasize. Among the tumor-associated stromal cells, the lab’s main focus is on myeloid-derived immune cells, a diverse group of cells that can enhance angiogenesis and metastasis and suppress the cytotoxic immune response against tumors. Egeblad is interested in how different types of myeloid cells are recruited to tumors and how their behaviors—for example, their physical interactions with cancer cells and other immune cells—influence cancer progression, including metastasis. The Egeblad lab studies the importance of the myeloid cells using mouse models of breast and pancreatic cancer and real-time imaging of cells in tumors in live mice. This enables them to follow the behaviors of and the interactions between cancer and myeloid cells in tumors during progression or treatment. This technique was instrumental when the lab recently showed that cancer drug therapy can be boosted by altering components of the tumor microenvironments, specifically reducing either matrix metalloproteinases (enzymes secreted by myeloid cells) or chemokine receptors (signal receptors on myeloid cells). This year, the Egeblad lab collaborated with Scott Powers’ group to understand how normal cells surrounding a tumor promote cancer growth. They found that normal cells signal to tumors through multiple pathways, and blocking these signals together has the greatest effect on inhibiting tumor growth—offering a new strategy to fight cancer.
How a sleeping cancer awakens and metastasizes
September 27, 2018
Cold Spring Harbor, NY — Scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) have determined one of the ways in which cancers in remission can spring back into action. This knowledge has inspired a new treatment idea designed to prevent cancer recurrence and metastasis. Even after successful cancer treatment, dormant, non-dividing cancer cells that previously detached...
Suffrage Science award to Mikala Egeblad
June 8, 2018
Scientific discoveries are a kind of intellectual heirloom, passed down across generations to scientists who add to the collection of knowledge during their own lifetimes. Associate Professor Mikala Egeblad recently received a different kind of scientific heirloom: handcrafted jewelry inspired by research and the Suffragette movement. On June 6, Egeblad and 10 other female scientists...
Public lecture: METASTASIS & IMMUNITY How immune cells can help cancer spread, or stop it in its tracks
January 12, 2018
Please join us for a free public lecture… METASTASIS & IMMUNITY How immune cells can help cancer spread, or stop it in its tracks Speakers: MIKALA EGEBLAD, Ph.D. Associate Professor Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory SYLVIA ADAMS, M.D. Associate Professor, Department of Medicine Director of Clinical Research, Breast Cancer Disease Management Group New York University Medical...
Three Strohm Sisters Family Foundation donates $5,000 for research on lung cancer recurrence
January 8, 2018
Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y. — On December 18, 2017, Ed Strohm of the Three Strohm Sisters Family Foundation presented CSHL Associate Professor Mikala Egeblad with a check for $5,000 to support her ongoing lung cancer research. This is the first donation Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has received from the Long Island-based foundation, which is dedicated...
One experiment: Bacteria-trapping DNA webs are repurposed by cancer cells
October 19, 2017
Cancer is infamous for repurposing molecules and mechanisms our body routinely uses to sustain itself. This remarkable 3D image, made by CSHL’s expert electron microscopist Stephen Hearn, dramatically captures one such mechanism, spider web-like structures made of DNA and studded with toxic enzymes. Normally, these webs are cast out into extracellular space by white blood...
Pershing Square Sohn cancer research prize awarded to CSHL’s Dr. Mikala Egeblad
May 8, 2017
New York City and Cold Spring Harbor, NY — Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) Associate Professor Mikala Egeblad, Ph.D., has been awarded the Pershing Square Sohn Prize for Young Investigators in Cancer Research. The announcement was made today by The Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance. This is the fourth year the Alliance has awarded the...
Glen Cove CARES donates $7,000 to breast cancer research at CSHL
February 27, 2017
Marilyn Abrams and Lorri Prince of Glen Cove CARES presented a $7,000 check to Dr. Mikala Egeblad, Professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory to support her breast cancer research
Our most common infection-fighting white blood cells can be hijacked to support cancer spread
October 19, 2016
The Egeblad lab made the surprising discovery that tumors take advantage of an immune defense to enhance metastasis. Breast cancer cells can induce the immune system to release webs of DNA and enzymes, known as NETs. These webs directly stimulate the cancer cell’s ability to invade, promoting metastasis.
How healthy cells might help cancer survive
February 4, 2016
LabDish blog Cancer researcher Mikala Egeblad aims to make cancer-fighting drugs more effective by preventing healthy cells from helping the enemy survive. The battlegrounds of the war on cancer—the landscape of healthy cells and molecules that make up the tumor’s “microenvironment”—sometimes fade to the background in cancer research. But CSHL Associate Professor Mikala Egeblad and...
Breaking down breast cancer at CSHL
October 30, 2015
LabDish blog Breast cancer awareness is important, but it’s action that saves lives. Whether developing more accurate and affordable tests for patients or mapping out the treacherous landscape of breast cancer genetics, researchers at CSHL certainly aren’t putting the fight on pause even as the pink ribbons dissipate. Explore how they’re attacking breast cancer from...
Park, J. and Wysocki, R. W. and Amoozgar, Z. and Maiorino, L. and Fein, M. R. and Jorns, J. and Schott, A. F. and Kinugasa-Katayama, Y. and Lee, Y. and Won, N. H. and Nakasone, E. S. and Hearn, S. A. and Kuttner, V. and Qiu, J. and Almeida, A. S. and Perurena, N. and Kessenbrock, K. and Goldberg, M. S. and Egeblad, M. (2016) Cancer cells induce metastasis-supporting neutrophil extracellular DNA traps. Sci Transl Med, 8(361) pp. 361ra138.
Park, Jae-Hyun and Rasch, Morten Grønbech and Qiu, Jing and Lund, Ida Katrine and Egeblad, Mikala (2015) Presence of Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Proteins Correlates With Tumor-Promoting Effects of Matrix Metalloproteinase 9 in Breast Cancer. Neoplasia, 17(5) pp. 421-433.
Ewald, A. J. and Egeblad, M. (2014) Cancer: Sugar-coated cell signalling. Nature, 511(7509) pp. 298-9.
Nakasone, E. S. and Askautrud, H. A. and Kees, T. and Park, J. H. and Plaks, V. and Ewald, A. J. and Fein, M. and Rasch, M. G. and Tan, Y. X. and Qiu, J. and Park, J. and Sinha, P. and Bissell, M. J. and Frengen, E. and Werb, Z. and Egeblad, M. (2012) Imaging Tumor-Stroma Interactions during Chemotherapy Reveals Contributions of the Microenvironment to Resistance. Cancer Cell, 21(4) pp. 488-503.
Egeblad, M. and Nakasone, E. S. and Werb, Z. (2010) Tumors as Organs: Complex Tissues that Interface with the Entire Organism. Developmental Cell, 18(6) pp. 884-901.Additional materials of the author at
CSHL Institutional Repository