Li Laboratory

Tumor Microenvironment and Metastasis

The Li Laboratory is committed to understanding cancer metastases, particularly bone metastases. Most cancer deaths are due to metastases, or the spread of cancer from the original site to another location in the body. Certain cancers such as breast, prostate and lung cancers are more likely to metastasize to bones. Once in the bone, cancer cells induce either osteolytic (bone resorption) or osteoblastic (abnormal bone formation) lesions, which cause skeletal-related events such as fractures, spinal cord compression, hypercalcemia and unbearable bone pain. Current treatments for bone metastatic patients are able to reduce some of the symptoms, such as pain, but do not increase survival. Mechanisms of bone metastases are largely unknown, which impedes the development of new treatments. Our long-term goal is to determine the mechanisms through which different cancers cause distinct bone lesions in order to develop early diagnostic and targeted therapeutic strategies for cancer patients with bone metastases. To achieve this goal, we study cancer cells (the “seeds”) and the tumor microenvironments (the “soil”) at the primary site and the secondary metastatic site — the bone.