The Weed laboratory focuses on the underlying molecular mechanisms that drive tumor cell invasion and metastasis, the key events in cancer progression responsible for lethality. Historically the laboratory focuses on cancers occurring in the oral cavity, collectively referred to as head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). HNSCC is associated with frequent alcohol and tobacco use, as well as infection with human papilloma virus (HPV). HNSCC invasion damages the soft and bony tissues of the craniofacial region, severely compromising local organ structure and function. Invasive HNSCC also results in abundant regional lymph node metastasis that further compounds patient treatment. The overall goal of the lab is to identify signal relay systems that impact the tumor cell cytoskeleton responsible for initiating and driving tumor invasion, characterizing potential prognostic markers for invasion and identifying novel therapeutic anti-metastatic targeting strategies to aid in tumor containment and eradication.
All projects in the lab employ a wide range of techniques, from standard cell and molecular biological approaches to novel applications of advanced imaging techniques to engineered tissues and transgenic animal model systems. Doctoral students in the laboratory are affiliated with the Cancer Cell Biology graduate program and participate in the Cell Biology Training program as a means to expand exposure to different cell-based disciplines. Several undergraduate students work in the laboratory through the MBRCC Summer Fellowship program, the West Virginia IDeA network of Biomedical Research (WV-INBRE) and through the WVU Honors College. ENT residents participate in PGY-3 research projects through the Department of Otolaryngology research program. The laboratory also participates in several collaborative projects with other investigators through the Molecular Mechanisms of EMT and Metastasis and Allen Lung Cancer research programs.