Ghassan Mouneimne

Ghassan Mouneimne

Assistant Professor, Cancer Biology - GIDP
Associate Professor, Cellular and Molecular Medicine
Member of the Graduate Faculty
Primary Department

Work Summary

Research in our laboratory is focused on understanding how aberrant structural organization of the cytoskeleton influences cellular behavior, such as cancer cell invasion and metastasis. The regulation of cellular behavior by structural remodeling of the cytoskeleton exemplifies the paradigm of “structure regulates function” at the cellular level. Our goal is to identify distinct actin cytoskeletal architectures that impact the response of cancer cells to well-known genetic and microenvironmental factors during cancer progression.

Research Interest

Our research program at the Mouneimne Laboratory concentrates on understanding how hormonal regulation of the cytoskeletal architecture in Estrogen Receptor positive (ER+) Breast Cancer (BC) cells impact their response to the biophysical tumor microenvironment (TME), particularly matrix rigidity. We have established that, through remodeling of the cytoskeleton, ER has dichotomous roles in promoting and suppressing ER+ BC invasion in stiff and soft TMEs, respectively. This differential responsiveness to the biophysical TME, we find, is unique to ER+ tumors and play a distinct role in promoting their metastatic dissemination, which is one of the major focus areas of our group. Further, we are interested in determining the mechanism by which these metastatic properties are maintained after dissemination to distant sites, such as the bone, where ER+ BC cells could remain dormant for several years before progressing to overt bone metastases. Our goal is to identify unique vulnerabilities in ER+ BC tumors potentially valuable for targeting cancer cells in both the neoadjuvant and adjuvant setting, thus blocking progression of initial and residual disease, respectively. The expertise of my group is in two converging areas of analytical cell biology, exploiting quantitative microscopy, and cancer biology, modeling invasive and metastatic phenotypes of breast cancer both in vitro and in vivo. Further, in collaboration with breast oncologists, pathologists, biophysicists, and biomedical engineers, our team is tackling the problem of ER+ BC metastasis from diverse angles, rationales, and training backgrounds, broadening our approach to include basic, translational, and patient-oriented research strategies.