Our Research Focus
The overall goals of the Guan laboratory is to understand the fundamental principles of cell signaling in the regulation of basic cellular functions in normal cell and developmental processes and to determine how the disruption of normal signaling pathways lead to diseases such as cancer. Trained as a molecular cell biologist in the 1980s, Dr. Guan has devoted his more than 3 decades of research career to understanding the fundamental mechanisms of cancer employing molecular and cell biological approaches combined with sophisticated mouse models of cancer. His laboratory has made seminal contributions in two areas of basic cancer research, namely, integrin signaling and autophagy in cancer development and progression. Earlier studies from Dr. Guan has identified focal adhesion kinase (FAK) as a key component of integrin signaling that is also regulated by oncogenic transformation, which along with work by others, helped to open up a new research field on integrin signaling. His group also identified FIP200 (FAK-family Interacting Protein of 200 kDa), which was found as a component of the ULK1/Atg13/FIP200 complex essential for the induction of autophagy in collaborative studies with others. Recent research in Dr. Guan’s laboratory provided the first evidence for a pro-tumorigenesis role of autophagy in animals with an intact immune system, revealed mechanisms by which FAK signaling promoted breast cancer development and metastasis through regulation of breast cancer stem cells (BCSCs), and created a new mouse model that recapitulates the clinical and molecular features of human lymphangiosarcoma that allowed them to show that sustained mTORC1 activation and its downstream VEGF autocrine signaling are required for tumor growth and maintenance. Building upon their years of successful research experience and many unique mouse models developed in the lab, Dr. Guan’s group is actively pursuing a number of research projects to dissect the critical role of autophagy and its cross-talk with kinase signaling pathways to unravel the mechanisms of cancer metastasis, dormancy and relapse, which are ultimately responsible for the mortality of cancer patients, in order to contribute to the development of effective new therapies for this devastating disease.