The Frisch lab, led by Steven M. Frisch, Ph.D., investigates several fundamental themes in cancer biology. First, we investigate the mechanisms regulating “anoikis”, apoptosis that is inhibited by appropriate cell adhesion signaling (a phenomenon that we discovered and named in the mid-90s). Resistance to anoikis is a unifying feature of metastatic tumor cells. Our recent work has focused on the intracellular metabolic (mitochondrial) changes that occur in metastatic cells to protect them against anoikis. Our second focus area is in transcription factors and epigenetic modifying factors that stabilize or destabilize gene expression profiles in tumor cells, suppressing or enhancing cell-to-cell tumor heterogeneity. Heterogeneity is closely linked with drug resistance, resistance to immune attack, and tumor recurrence. In this connection, we discovered that a wound healing transcription factor called Grainyhead-like-2 (GRHL2) suppresses tumor heterogeneity and prevents recurrence. Our program is highly translational, with discoveries informing the development of novel drugs to suppress drug-resistance, immune cell resistance and tumor recurrence in patients. We believe firmly in integrating different biologic processes together to inform and test novel cancer-relevant hypotheses, through collaborative endeavors.
All investigations include the efforts of research assistants, postdoctoral fellows, predoctoral students (CCB Program), and students from the undergraduate Biology Honors Program and represent collaborations with clinical colleagues in the Research Programs at the WVU Cancer Institute.