Stem Cell Ageing and Cancer
Age is the single biggest risk factor for many common diseases, including cancer. However, little is known about the changes associated with ageing that enable tumourigenesis. My lab studies the crosstalk of ageing and cancer on multiple levels.
Cellular senescence is a cell-intrinsic tumour suppressor mechanism and one of our main defences against cancer. Senescent cells that were involved in tumour suppression show similarities to old cells. We study how cellular senescence prevents cancer and why it fails in some patients that progress to cancer.
Stem cells are important in tissue homeostasis, with many stem cell properties changing with increased age. This is especially well characterised in blood stem cells, where ageing is associated with increased DNA damage, a bias in stem cell output towards the myeloid lineage and clonal haemopoiesis, the outgrowth of individual stem cell clones, a precursor to cancer.
Our research in understanding age-related changes in carcinogenesis uses state-of-the-art single cell technologies in patient samples combined with relevant in vivo models to understand how aberrant stem cells evolve with age and how the ageing microenvironment contributes to this process. Our ultimate goal is to provide biomarkers for early detection of age-associated cancer and novel treatment avenues.