Developmental and Cancer Biology

Developmental and Cancer Biology Research Group

Research Group Head

The goal of the Cancer and Developmental Biology Research Group is to study how aberrant activation of embryonic signalling pathways contributes to the initiation, growth, and self-renewal of cancer. This work is based on the idea that a very limited number of signalling pathways, which are highly conserved in evolution, is required for self-renewal in development, organ repair, and cancer.

The primary focus of the laboratory is investigating the mechanisms underlying the development and progression of paediatric solid tumours leading to the development of novel therapies, or repurposing of existing therapies, for maximal anti-tumorigenic effect and minimal associated patient side-effects. Using a broad range of developmental, molecular and cancer biology techniques in combination with in vivo mouse models, the laboratory is specifically interested in tumours associated with poor outcomes including malignancies of the brain (diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, medulloblastoma, atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumour) and bone (osteosarcoma).

The team has played a part in understanding the significance of normal and abnormal Hedgehog signalling (Hh) and epigenetic regulation in development and cancer. The clinical focus of the laboratory is the application of Hh pathway inhibitors or pharmacological epigenetic regulators to childhood malignancies.

The team’s experimental work includes:
– Paediatric solid tumours (including brain tumours and sarcoma’s)
– Hedgehog signalling biology
– Epigenetics
– Preclinical models of cancer (including genetic, allograft and xenograft mouse models)

For information on available projects and positions within the Development and Cancer Biology laboratory please contact Dr Jason Cain.

Research Group

Selected publications

  • Muscat A, Popovski D, Jayasekara WSN, Rossello FJ, Alamgeer M, Algar EM, Ferguson M, Watkins DN, Cain JE*, Ashley DM*. Low-Dose Histone Deacetylase Inhibitor Treatment Leads to Tumour Growth Arrest and Multi-lineage Differentiation of Malignant Rhadboid Tumours. Clinical Cancer Research. 2016 15;22(14):3560-70.*co-senior and corresponding authors

  • Ramaswamy V, Hielscher T, Mack SC, Lassaletta A, Lin T, Pajtler K, Jones DTW, Luu B, Cavalli FMG, Aldape K, Remke M, Mynarek M, Rutkowski S, Gururangan S, McLendon RE, Lipp ES, Dunham C, Hukin J, Eisenstat D, Fulton D, van Landeghem FKH, Santi M, van Veelen MC, Van Meir EG, Osuka S, Fan X, Tirapelli DPC, Oba-Shinjo SM, Marie SKN, Carlotti CG, Lee J, Nageswara Rao AA, Faria CC, Nunes S, Mora J, Hamilton RL, Hauser P, Jabado N, Petrecca K, Jung S, Massimi L, Zollo M, László B, Klekner A, Hortobágyi T, Leary S, Ermoian RP, Olson JM, Leonard JR, Gardner C, Grajkowska WA, Chambless LB, Cain J, Eberhart CG, Ahsan S, Massimino M, Packer RJ, Emery L, Yong WH, Soto H, Liau LM, Everson R, Grossbach A, Shalaby T, Grotzer M, Karajannis MA, Wheeler H, von Hoff K, Alonso M, Schuller U, Zitterbart K, Sterba J, Chan JA, Guzman M, Elbabaa SK, Colman H, Dhall G, Fisher P, Fouladi M, Gajjar A, Goldman S, Hwang E, Kool M, Ladha H, Lieberman F, Metellus P, Mikkelsen T, Omuro AM, Pollack IF, Prados M, Robins HI, Soffietti R, Wu J, Hawkins CE, Rutka JT, Tabori U, Bartels U, Bouffet E, Pfister SM, Merchant T, Gilbert MR, Armstrong TS, Korshunov A, Ellison DW, Taylor MD. Therapeutic Impact of Cytoreductive Surgery and Irradiation of Posterior Fossa Ependymoma in the Molecular Era. Journal of Clinical Oncology 2016 20;34(21):2468-77.

  • Cochrane CR, Szczepny A, Watkins DN, Cain JE. Hedgehog Signaling in the Maintenance of Cancer Stem Cells. Cancers, 2015; 11;7(3):1554-85

  • Leong TL, Marini KD, Rosello FJ, Jayeskara SN, Russell PA, Prodanovic Z, Kumar B, Ganju V, Alamgeer M, Irving LB, Steinfort DP, Peacock CD, Cain JE, Szczepny A, Watkins DN. Genomic Characterization of Small Cell Lung Cancer Patient-Derived Xenografts Generated from Endobronchial Ultrasound-Guided Transbronchial Needle Aspiration Specimens. PLoS ONE. 2014 5;9(9):e106862.

  • Buczkowicz P, Hoeman C, Rakopoulos P, Pajovic S, Letourneau L, Dzamba M, Morrison A, Lewis P, Bouffet E, Bartels U, Zuccaro J, Agnihotri S, Ryall S, Barszczyk M, Chornenkyy Y, Bourgey M, Bourque G, Montpetit A, Cordero F, Castelo-Branco P, Mangerel J, Tabori U, Ho KC, Huang A, Taylor KR, Mackay A, Bendel AE, Nazarian J, Fangusaro JR, Karajannis MA, Zagzag D, Foreman NK, Donson A, Hegert JV, Smith A, Chan J, Lafay-Cousin L, Dunn S, Hukin J, Dunham C, Scheinemann K, Michaud J, Zelcer S, Ramsay D, Cain J, Brennan C, Souweidane MM, Jones C, Allis CD, Brudno M, Becher O, Hawkins C. Genomic analysis of diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas identifies three molecular subgroups and recurrent activating ACVR1 mutations. Nat Genet. 2014;46(5):451-6

  • Cain JE*, McCaw A, Jayasekara S, Rossello FJ, Marini KD, Irving AT, Kansara M, Thomas DM, Ashley DM, Watkins DN.  Sustained Treatment With Low Dose Histone Deacetylase Inhibitor LBH589 Induces Terminal Differentiation of Osteosarcoma Cells. Sarcoma, 2013; Epub Feb 28. *Corresponding author