Persistent inflammation is commonly found in the tumor microenvironment, and the evidence suggests that treating the inflammation, in addition to front line therapy, is beneficial to patients. Additionally, rapid lipid accumulation is a common trait in cancer, yet its utility in cancer development is incompletely understood. In the Simmons lab, we utilize several cancer models (including breast, ovarian, renal, and lung) to study the role that lipids and inflammation play in the development of cancers.

Lipids play a role in several key metabolic pathways in cells. Alterations in lipid synthesis and breakdown is critical to cancer development

Project 1. Role of lipids in regulating gene expression and epithelial-mesenchymal transition.

Specific questions we want to address:

  • What genes are upregulated by lipids that are needed for metastasis?

  • What cancer types are sensitive to the presence of specific lipid classes?

Treating cells with specific fatty-acids demonstrates the unique proteins regulated by different lipids classes, such as HMGB1.

Project 2. Role of High Mobility Group B1 protein in development of lung cancer.

Specific questions we want to address:

  • Can HMGB1 be used to identify patients with lung cancer?

  • What is the relationship to HMGB1 and sensitivity to SCD1 inhibition?

  • Could small molecules inhibitors against HMGB1 be used to as potential therapy?

Project 3. Mechanism of lipid-dependent protein synthesis in cancer cells.

Specific questions we are trying to address include:

  • Which cellular functions are altered in cancer cells by the unsaturated fatty acid?

  • What molecular patterns distinguish lipid-sensitive proteins from insensitive ones?

  • What post-translational mechanisms can be targeted for therapy?