Under the direction of Lawrence Quilliam, PhD, the Quilliam Lab is interested in delineating signal transduction pathways induced by growth-stimulatory factors, and in determining the mechanisms by which these pathways are aberrantly activated during the course of malignant transformation. Many of the genes that become mutated in human cancers encode for mitogenic signaling proteins. Characterization of the enzymes and protein-protein interactions involved in mitogenic signaling forms the basis for the rational design of novel anti-cancer therapeutics.
Much of the focus of Quilliam’s research is centered on Ras family GTPases and the pathways they control. Ras proteins normally act as molecular switches to relay growth stimulatory signals but become constitutively activated in many cancers, leading to uncontrolled proliferation. The Ras onco-proteins are frequently mutated in pancreatic cancer, a malignancy with a dismal survival rate. Therefore, current lab efforts are addressing ways to combat Ras-induced transformation in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma cells through the simultaneous inhibition of pathways activated by Ras along with those, e.g. Yap/Taz transcriptional co-activators, that compensate for loss of Ras activity.
Independently, mouse models have been developed to understand the molecular and biological roles of Rap1, one of over 30 Ras-related proteins. Rap1A and 1B contribute to leukocyte (myeloid) and endothelial cell pathologies and also impact tumor growth and metastasis.