Universiteit Leiden

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Cancer Drug Target Discovery

In this research group, headed by Prof. Erik Danen, the aim is to unravel cellular signaling mechanisms in normal and diseased cells, with a long-standing interest in cell adhesion signaling. In complex multicellular organisms such as ourselves, a division of labor emerges where different tissues and organs are formed with their unique contributions to the organism as a whole. Progress in understanding how cells work together to form and maintain these building blocks in normal physiology and how these are corrupted in pathological situations, impacts on strategies for tissue engineering and the discovery of drugs to cure diseases. Mostly, our research has been in the context of cancer, not only trying to unravel mechanisms of signaling but also aimed at identification of novel drug targets in the areas of drug resistance and metastasis, the two major aspects of cancer contributing to mortality.

Questions in which we are interested with respect to cell signaling include the following: How do cells sense and integrate information from the environment to shape this into a cellular response? What are the mechanisms controlling whether cells survive and proliferate or die, whether they move or stay in the same place? How do cells respond to changes in their environment, including alterations in the surrounding extracellular matrix (ECM), proximity of other cell types, and exposure to harmful chemicals? How are these processes altered in cancer versus normal cells and how can we translate this knowledge into strategies for intervention?

Read more about our research >

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