Mikel Garcia-Marcos, PhD, assistant professor in the department of Biochemistry at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) was recently awarded a Research Scholar Award from the American Cancer Society. The four-year, $650,000 award will fund his project titled “molecular mechanisms and validation of a novel target in cancer.”
One out of four people in the U.S. are at risk of dying of cancer. The progression of cancers like breast, colon, prostate, skin or pancreas involves a complex and multi-step process that culminates in metastasis, i.e., the systemic spread of tumor cells from the primary site to distant organs in the body. Metastasis is still the cause of more than 90 percent of cancer-related deaths and despite advances in the field of cancer therapeutics metastasis remains poorly understood and incurable.
Garcia-Marcos is investigating a novel mechanism by which tumor cells become metastatic. He has found a protein, called GIV/ Girdin, which is aberrantly overexpressed in aggressive cancers. “We believe that this overexpression results in hyperamplification of signaling cascades that promote metastasis. More specifically, GIV/ Girdin activates a critical group of signaling molecules (G proteins) via a novel and unconventional mechanism,” he explained. According to Garcia-Marcos, his current goal is to dissect how this novel mechanism is regulated at the molecular level to control the fate of tumor cells and cancer progression towards metastasis. “The achievement of our goals will translate into the development of novel therapeutic strategies to blunt the deadliest phase of cancer, i.e., metastasis,” he added.
Garcia-Marcos completed his PhD in European labs located in the Basque Country and Belgium. He joined BUSM as an assistant professor in 2012 after completing a five-year postdoctoral training at University of California, San Diego. Garcia-Marcos has assembled a dynamic research team with two postdoctoral fellows, a research assistant and several BU undergraduates.