Dr. Mary (Cindy) Farach-Carson
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
School of Dentistry
Department of Diagnostic and Biomedical Sciences
Research in our laboratory relates to the role of extracellular matrix in progression of cancer following metastasis from primary sites, such as prostate, to bone. Primary tumors often are slow growing and are not life-threatening until they form tumors in bone. The factors sequestered in bone matrix provide a rich environment to promote growth of cancer cells that invade there. Many factors are bound to proteoglycans, including perlecan/HSPG2, that contain heparan sulfate that regulate their bioactivity. We seek to identify the factors responsible for cancer growth and progression with the long term aim of developing "molecular drugs" to combat cancer metastasis. Three dimensional models are used to study the behavior of cancer cells and test their susceptibility to drugs that reduce cancer growth and progression. Industrial partnerships support the development of novel cancer diagnostics based on the principle that cancer biomarkers are created by cancer growth in bone. A multidisciplinary project uses proteoglycans, particularly those bearing heparan sulfate chains such as perlecan, in engineering of connective tissues such as bone, cartilage or salivary gland. Cell and molecular engineering strategies are being developed that facilitate controlled tissue growth and differentiation. Growth factor binding and delivery by engineered proteoglycans are used in oral surgery and orthopaedic applications. Engineering partnerships support these studies. A trainee doing research with us would be exposed to a variety of techniques including 3D hydrogel cell culture, recombinant and natural protein purification and analysis, cloning and molecular biology, immunodetection, 3D printing, confocal imaging and pre-clinical models.