Wnt Signaling Pathway
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    Wnt Signaling Pathway
    Cells are wet 'computers' for processing environmental information and forming appropriate responses. Instead of wire, diodes and capacitors, cells use networks of chemical reactions to transmit and modify environmental signals to the cell nucleus or to neighbouring cells. These signal-transduction pathways should make decisions as to the correct response of the cell.

    The Wnt signaling pathway plays a critical role in development, particularly in directing cell attachments and proliferation. In the adult, it is this same signaling pathway that is believed to be reactivated in many cancers, including colon cancer. In other words, the Wnt signaling pathway is crucial for healthy development, but in adult cells deregulated Wnt signaling can lead to tumourigenesis. The hallmarks of malignant cancer are inappropriate proliferation, invasion and metastasis. In order for this to proceed, cancer cells must be capable of switching (deciding) between a quiescent to a proliferation mode and also switching between cell proliferation and an invasive mode (with cells detaching from the primary tumour). Secondary tumours grow when the invading cells return back to a proliferation mode. The Wnt signaling pathway is involved in each of these stages of malignant cancer development quiescence, cell proliferation and cell-cell adhesion. Despite being fundamental to cancer cell behaviour, the switching between these various states of the Wnt signaling pathway is still poorly understood, and as such represents a key limitation to future progress in understanding a wide range of cancers.

    Therefore, the primary aim of this project is to understand the switching between various states of the Wnt signaling pathway. The approach employed is a combination of mathematically modeling (i.e. using computational system-biology methods), coupled with experimental molecular biology (performed by research partners at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Melbourne).


    • Prof David Smith
    • 2009-2011, NHMRC, Simulations of colon cancer, Tony Burgess, David Smith and Bruce Gardiner, $528,750

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Last updated: July 15 2015 09:16:55.