Alex Strongin, Ph.D.
Professor, Tumor Microenvironment
The destruction of proteins by cellular enzymes (proteolysis) plays a major role in both normal development and cancer. Dr. Alex Strongin’s laboratory is focused on understanding the fundamental mechanisms of proteolysis and translating that knowledge into new treatments.
MT1-MMP is a proteinase—a protein that alters the function of other proteins—and plays a significant role in cancer, particularly in cancer cell invasion and metastasis. Because of its structure, MT1-MMP is tethered to the cell membrane and is predominantly localized at the leading and trailing edges of migrating cells, where it modifies cell adhesion receptors, protects tumor cells from immune surveillance and breaks up pieces of the extracellular matrix. Ultimately, MT1-MMP uses these functions to help cancer cells break away from tumor sites and migrate to other parts of the body.
But MT1-MMP is not done. The protein also reprograms specific genes associated with tumor growth. The activated gene networks then begin functioning in unison with MT1-MMP to rework signaling, transport, cell division, energy metabolism and other critical cell functions, committing the cell to rapid migration and invasion.