Modelling heterotypic cell-cell interactions in early pancreatic cancer

Epithelial cells communicate and integrate multiple networks of signals through cell-cell interactions, which instruct cells on position, function and fate. Tight control of these processes is required to maintain homeostasis of a tissue.

Many human cancers begin sporadically when one cell acquires genetic mutations and becomes transformed. Dr Hogan's research focuses on understanding how transformed cells expand to form precursor lesions within an environment of tightly regulated growth control and homeostasis, events that are poorly understood. She is particularly interested in the early stages of human epithelial cancers where Ras mutations are one of the earliest events, such as pancreatic cancer.

Using a combination of in vitro epithelial cell culture systems and in vivo mouse models, her research will explore the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying how Ras-transformed and normal epithelial cells interact and communicate. She will also determine whether these cell-cell interactions promote or prevent expansion of the transformed cells. This may generate new and innovative insights into the early stages of epithelial cancers and advance the development of early detection, diagnostic and preventative strategies.