Joyce A Schroeder
My laboratory investigates the normal biology of the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR, and its family members, HER2 and ErbB3), as well as their role in transformation and metastasis. These oncogenes are a family of transmembrane tyrosine kinases that drive a wide-variety of cancers including HER2 positive and triple negative breast cancer, squamous cell lung cancer and glioblastoma. Our work focuses on kinase-independent activities of these receptors (such as modulation of calcium signaling and functions as transcriptional co-factors) and how the receptors are mis-regulated during cancer progression (by a loss of lysosomal degradation). These studies include investigations into receptor trafficking, nuclear translocation and protein-protein interactions that are unique to cancer survival and metastasis. We are currently focused on understanding how EGFR enters the retrotranslocation pathway that allows for it to traffic to the nucleus and directly affect gene transcription, as well as understanding how these events drive migration and survival. Based on these studies, we have developed peptide-based therapeutics for cancer that block protein-protein interactions that promote EGFR retrotranslocation. We are developing these peptide-based therapeutics for clinical applications through peptide stability studies including hydrocarbon stapling and mutational analyses. To promote the clinical translation of these discoveries, the biotech start-up company Arizona Cancer Therapeutics was founded in my lab at the Arizona Cancer Center. We are currently performing toxicity testing of our compounds with the goal of applying for approval from the FDA for clinical trials. These studies have been accomplished through the hard work and dedication of the over 50 undergraduate students, 2 MS and 11 PhD students who have studied in my lab since 2002.