María del Mar Vivanco
mdmvivanco
María del Mar Vivanco
PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR

Address: Bizkaia Science and Technology Park,
building 801A, Derio (Bizkaia)
Cancer Heterogeneity Lab
Robert Kypta
ASSOCIATE PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR

Address: Bizkaia Science and Technology Park,
building 801A, Derio (Bizkaia)

Robert Kypta was an undergraduate at Oxford University and carried out his PhD at EMBL in Heidelberg, where he studied the roles of Src family tyrosine kinases in the cellular response to PDGF. He did his postdoctoral training in Louis Reichardt’s lab at the University of California San Francisco on cell adhesion in neurons, fi nding an association between the cadherin-catenin complex and receptor tyrosine phosphatases. He returned to the UK to start his own lab as a Wellcome Trust Career Development Fellow at the MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology, focusing on catenin function in cell models of neuroblastoma and colorectal cancer. He then took up a Lectureship at Imperial College London, where his group identifi ed new links between components of the Wnt signalling network and the androgen receptor, a key driver of prostate cancer progression and a major therapeutic target. He set up his lab at CIC bioGUNE in 2005 with the goal of developing new therapies based on studies of signalling pathways that determine tumour and stem cell fate. His research has resulted in several awards, including an ARTP Prize and an Androgens Meeting Prize.

Breast cancer is a very heterogeneous disease. The identification and characterisation of cells with stem-like properties (cancer stem/progenitor cells, CSCs) in breast cancer has opened new possibilities for anti-cancer therapies. Furthermore, CSCs have been implicated in tumour initiation and resistance to current treatments, including to hormone therapy. In addition, characterisation of the regulation of normal epithelial cell differentiation is fundamental to understanding breast cancer heterogeneity.

The main objective of the laboratory is to gain further insight into the roles of steroid hormone receptors in normal breast tissue and during breast cancer development. Thus, the influences of hormones, other signalling factors and the microenvironment in breast stem cells and in their transformation into cancer initiating cells are being explored, particularly focusing on their effects during development of resistance to hormone therapy. Recent work from the lab has revealed the role of CSCs in resistance to tamoxifen and has highlighted the molecular heterogeneity observed in response to the cell environment. Presently, studies are in progress to improve further our knowledge of the molecular mechanisms regulating stem and cancer stem cells with the final aims of (1) identifying biomarkers of resistance to therapy and (2) progressing our understanding of breast cancer biology