Susan Waltz, PhD, professor and director of the Graduate Program in Cancer and Cell Biology at UC College of Medicine, is on the front lines of the cancer battle. Her research into the Ron receptor is helping understand how cancer cells communicate and metastasize.
Specifically, Waltz focuses on breast and prostate cancers where the Ron receptor is believed to play a prominent role. After discovering the Ron receptor, a protein on the outside of cancer cells, Waltz and her team completed a number of studies to see how important the receptor is in cancer growth and how it communicates with other types of cells in the microenvironment. They discovered that when the protein is over-produced, cancers grow and become more aggressive.
“We're really excited about some of the original discoveries that we've made,” said Waltz. “Not only is the Ron receptor important in the tumor itself, but it is also important in redirecting the other cells around it, like immune cells, that are not necessarily tumor cells.”
In addition to her roles as a professor and researcher, Waltz directs the Graduate Program in Cancer and Cell Biology and is the Co-Director of a NIH sponsored Training Program in Cancer Therapy. Her job here is to help young researchers understand the mechanisms of cancer cell biology, with a focus on new cancer treatments. And according to Waltz, it’s the most rewarding part of her job.
“It's fabulous to relate to the younger generation because you get to help mold them and mentor them on how to understand new problems and become a problem solver,” said Waltz. “It's really satisfying to watch them blossom into researchers that are going to go out and make a difference.”
Waltz understands the importance of shaping the next generation of cancer research. Waltz’s research on the Ron receptor is helping today’s scientific community gain a better understanding of how breast and prostate cancers metastasize, but her work with budding researchers will help shape cancer research for years to come—in Cincinnati, the U.S. and around the world.