Functional role of extracellular matrix protein 1 (ECM1) in angiogenesis and breast cancer progression

Presented by Professor Thorarinn Gudjonsson

Thorarinn Gudjonsson is a Professor of histology and leader of the Stem Cell Research Unit at the Department of Medical Anatomy, University of Iceland. Thorarinn is also chairman for the Biomedical Center, University of Iceland. Thorarinn finished his PhD in 2002 in Ole William Petersen’s laboratory at the University of Copenhagen, where he focused on the cellular origin and function of myoepithelial cells in the breast. During this time, Thorarinn collaborated with Mina Bissell from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory University, a pioneer in the field of 3D culture. Working with Ole William Petersen and Mina Bissell was an inspiring period for his future carrier in breast cancer research. His current research interest is the cellular and molecular mechanism behind branching morphogenesis and cellular plasticity in the human breast and how these processes go awry during breast cancer progression. Thorarinn has established a number of cell lines that have been highly useful for studying the cellular context in the breast gland. Some of these cell lines harbor stem cell characteristics making them an important tool for recapitulation of tissue structures in vitro. His laboratory uses three-dimensional cell culture models to generate organotypic breast structures and to study the molecular mechanism behind branching morphogenesis, epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) and its reverse processes mesenchymal to epithelial transition (MET). In addition, Thorarinn and his group is also interested in epithelial stromal interactions, in particular how endothelial cells contribute to epithelial morphogenesis in the normal and neoplastic breast gland.

Brief outline of the talk

The microenvironment is increasingly being recognized as a key player in supporting cancer progression. Investigating heterotypic interactions between cancer cells and the vasculature as part of their microenvironment is important for improving our understanding of how the microenvironment supports tumour growth and facilitates metastasis. In my talk I  will discuss our recent study focusing on heterotypic interactions between breast cancer cells and endothelial cells. We have identified extracellular matrix protein 1 (ECM1) secreted by cancer cells as an inducer of angigenesis in vitro. Furthermore, we have shown that conditioned media from endothelial cells treated with ECM1 promote cancer progression by enhanced migration and invasion. In summary, we have identified ECM1 as an important player in heterotypic interactions between breast cancer cells and endothelial cells. 

For more information about Professor Gudjonsson please see here