Troy, N.Y. A recent Research Scholar Grant from the American Cancer Society acknowledges the potential of Rensselaer researcher Lee Ligon's work on breast cancer. Ligon is investigating interactions between cells as breast cancer spreads within the body.
"We're trying to figure out how cancerous and non-cancerous cells communicate with each other, how they bind to each other, and what the consequences of those interactions are," Ligon said.
The Research Scholar Grant from the American Cancer Society includes a four-year $720,000 award to support this research.
"The Research Scholar Grant is a highly prestigious award for junior faculty. This grant acknowledges the importance of Dr. Ligon's work in the field of cancer research and heralds a promising future of valuable insights and discoveries," said Susan Gilbert, a Rensselaer professor and head of the department of biology.
Ligon studies cadherins, proteins that cause cells to adhere to one another, allowing cells to form organs and other structures. Different cadherins are expressed by different cells, each for its proper function.
"Cells have to stick together appropriately and if they express the same cadherin they will," Ligon said. "But that only works in the normal situation when cells are sticking to cells that they're supposed to stick to. We're interested in the situation in tumors."
More than 90 percent of all cancers, Ligon said, originate in epithelial cells cells that form barriers between the inside and outside of the body, like skin cells, or the cells that line the intestines, or milk ducts in the breasts.
Because epithelial cells form a barrier between the inside and outside of the body, they must renew themselves more frequently than many other kinds of cells like muscle or nerve cells. That presents more opportunity for abnormal cell division and cancer.
Most breast cancers originate in the epithelial cells that l
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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute