Precision oncology in ovarian cancer
Research group information
Unit and faculty
Faculty of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine
Research group leader
- Associate Prof. (tenure track, Profi6 Fibrobesity)Daniela Ungureanu
Research group description
The Wnt pathway is a complex signaling cascade that is involved in the regulation of cell growth, differentiation, and survival. Canonical Wnt pathway, also known as the β-catenin-dependent pathway, controls cell proliferation, differentiation, and survival. The non-canonical Wnt signaling, also known as the β-catenin-independent pathway, plays important roles in cell migration, cell polarity, cytoskeletal organization, and cell fate determination.
ROR1/ROR2 and PTK7 are also known as Wnt-binding receptor pseudokinases. They are called pseudokinases because, although they contain kinase domains, they lack the catalytic activity of traditional protein kinases. Instead, they act as scaffold proteins that can recruit and activate other signaling proteins. It has been shown that ROR1 and ROR2 are overexpressed in several types of cancer and are considered as potential therapeutic targets for cancer treatment. Studies have shown that targeting ROR1 and ROR2 can inhibit cancer cell migration and invasion, and reduce the tumorigenicity of cancer cells by inhibiting the non-canonical Wnt signaling pathway. Both ROR1 and ROR2 have been shown to play a role in the regulation of cancer stem cells (CSCs) by activating the non-canonical Wnt signaling pathway to promote self-renewal, proliferation, survival and drug resistance.
Our research focuses on the molecular mechanisms employed by Wnt-binding receptor pseudokinases such as ROR1, ROR2 and PTK7 to promote cell growth and differentiation. We are interested to understand how these receptors signal and how their dysregulated activation leads to tumor development.
Drug resistance is one of the most challenging problem facing cancer treatments today. The intrinsic drug resistance can occur when cancer cells undergo molecular changes that make them insensitive to a particular drug before treatment even begins. In cases of acquired resistance, cancer cells may adapt to the drug while it is being administered, acquiring molecular changes that allow them to escape its effects. The molecular mechanisms that contribute to drug resistance include mutation of the drug's molecular target, changes in the way the drug interacts with the tumor, broad cellular changes, and changes in the tumor microenvironment, among others.
Another research area of high interest for us is to understand how cancer cells respond to drug treatments at single cell level. We aim to uncover cell-specific gene expression signatures that could provide more insights into drug response mechanisms and advance the power of precision oncology.
Research group members
Harlan Barker is a postdoctoral researcher at University of Oulu and currently a visiting researcher at FIMM, University of Helsinki. Harlan is interested in improving our understanding of vertebrate gene regulatory mechanisms and, in particular, identifying variation in regulatory regions between modern and ancient humans. Currently, he is developing novel pipelines for analysis of single-cell RNA-Seq data in the analysis of prostate and ovarian cancer samples.
Alice Dini is a doctoral researcher at the University of Oulu, Fibrobesity Program. She utilizes both bioinformatics and wet-lab techniques to study drug resistance in cancer cells via multiplexed single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq). Alice is also involved in other collaborative projects aimed at discovering new drug vulnerabilities in various types of cancer. She has a background in Medical Epigenomics and Genomics.
Emilia Piki is a doctoral researcher at University of Oulu and a visiting researcher at FIMM, University of Helsinki. She has a background in Cell and Developmental Biology. Emilia is interested in understanding drug-response phenotypes in ovarian cancer and to develop reliable methodologies and ex-vivo models for translational/preclinical drug-research.
Juuli Raivola is Academy of Finland postdoctoral fellow at the University of Helsinki. Her research is focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms associated with drug-resistance in ovarian cancer and uterine leiomyomas. Additionally, Juuli is also involved in collaborative projects investigating the role of non-canonical Wnt-signaling in tumor development and drug-resistance.
Subodh Sharma is a postdoctoral researcher at University of Oulu, Fibrobesity Program. Subodh's research is mainly focused on understanding the underlying mechanisms behind the obesity-mediated cancer progression. His main objective is to develop a common 3D model where omental adipocytes interact with cancer cells, characterize molecular profiles, and identify the principal mechanism that favors cancer development.