The main focus in our laboratory is the identification and physiological characterization of adipocyte-specific gene products and the elucidation of pathways that are an integral part of the complex set of reactions that drive adipogenesis. The hope is to unravel novel mechanisms and identify novel proteins that could serve as potential links between the adipocyte and the process of whole body energy homeostasis, thereby defining novel targets for pharmacological intervention and further define the role of adipose tissue as an endocrine tissue. Until recently, adipose tissue has been considered to be a mere storage compartment of triglycerides. It is now becoming clear that adipocytes are highly responsive to extracellular stimuli, play a central role in overall energy homeostasis and are also essential for certain aspects of the immune system.
Many epidemiological studies currently suggest a positive correlation between the prevalence of obesity and cancer incidence and mortality. Rigorous meta-analysis studies demonstrate strong associations of obesity with esophageal adenocarcinoma, thyroid, colon and renal cancers in males and endometrial, gallbladder, esophageal adeno-carcinoma, ovarian and renal cancers in females. In addition, postmenopausal breast, pancreatic, thyroid and colon cancers also showed strong positive associations in females. While the epidemiological evidence linking obesity with cancer incidence is strong, particularly with breast cancer, the underlying mechanistic connections remain elusive.
Our expertise lies at the level of adipocyte physiology. As adipose tissues becomes dysfunctional, the altered physiological state of obese adipose tissue holds the key to enhanced mitogenic effects on tumor development and progression, in part through altered paracrine and endocrine signals. Evidence supporting growth-stimulatory roles of adipocyte-derived factors (such as adipokines and lipid metabolites) on cancer progression has been highlighted in several of our papers. We have published a number of additional papers over the past 8 years, examining the contributions of specific adipokines, such as adiponectin, leptin and have summarized these observations in many reviews and commentaries.
Additional efforts focus on the role of the innate immune response to tumor invasion in the mammary gland.