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 cancer and, in particular, 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 other stromal cell types and an 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 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). Most recently, the Egeblad lab has showed that when a specific type of myeloid cell, called neutrophil, is activated during inflammation it can awaken sleeping cancer to cause cancer recurrence. The neutrophils do so by forming so-called neutrophil extracellular traps, structures of extracellular DNA and these alter the extracellular matrix surrounding the sleeping cancer cells to provide a wake-up signal.
Cancer researchers discuss COVID-19’s effect on the field
July 27, 2020
Dr. David Tuveson and Dr. Tobias Janowitz discuss in Cancer Discovery how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed cancer research.
How two CSHL programs adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic
July 16, 2020
Mikala Egeblad and David Micklos presented their work at the “Life Science Across the Globe” seminar series.
How breast cancer cells sneak past local immune defenses
July 15, 2020
Breast cancer cells sabotage nearby immune cells to evade detection and destruction by the body’s defenses.
CSHL joins “Life Science Across the Globe” seminar series
June 29, 2020
CSHL will present two talks at the “Life Science Across the Globe” seminar series on July 8.
New evidence for how blood clots may form in very ill COVID-19 patients
June 29, 2020
The amount of NETs in COVID-19 patients’ blood vessels correlates with the severity of their disease.
How an antiviral immune reaction can go too far
May 23, 2020
White blood cells sacrifice themselves to ensnare invaders in a sticky NET (neutrophil extracellular trap), but in COVID-19, NETs may hurt us.
What do these scientist moms do? Ask their kids.
May 8, 2020
We asked the children of three scientists to describe their mother’s work. See what they had to say.
How NETs harm lungs
April 23, 2020
Are NETs present in human ARDS, like during fulminant coronavirus infections? Could breaking up NETs help cure patients?
Global NETwork studies role of immune cells in COVID-19 deaths
April 16, 2020
The symptoms of severe COVID-19 disease may be caused by overactive white blood cells that produce gauzy webs of DNA laced with toxic enzymes called NETs.
Mikala Egeblad wins Marks Foundation ASPIRE Award
December 20, 2019
Associate Professor Mikala Egeblad received the ASPIRE award to fund research understanding the relationship between stress and metastasis.