“Our research group studies the genetic circuits that control cell identity and behavior during embryonic development. Support from the Sontag Foundation will allow us to define how developmental mechanisms are re-deployed by cancer cells during tumorigenesis and metastasis. We are employing single-cell analysis and functional genomics to examine the control of cell state transitions in pediatric brain cancers. By examining the biology of cancer cells through a developmental prism, we hope to identify novel targets for therapeutic intervention.”
- Dr. Marcos Simoes-Costa
- Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
About DSA-Funded Research
Embryonic and cancerous cells display many common characteristics, including enhanced cellular plasticity, motility, and proliferation. These parallels led us to explore the idea that tumorigenesis involves the reactivation of developmental circuits in adult cells. We are currently investigating how developmental gene regulatory networks are deployed by malignant cells in pediatric medulloblastoma. We employ genomic profiling, spatial transcriptomics, and single-cell analysis to scrutinize how the epigenomic landscape of differentiated neural cells changes during tumor initiation. These datasets will allow us to identify shared molecular programs that operate in embryonic neural progenitors and medulloblastoma cells. Next, we will use functional assays to verify if components of these programs underlie landmark metastatic behaviors. We expect that comparative network analysis between embryonic and neoplastic cells will shed light on how developmental programs are co-opted to trigger malignant transformation.
"During his two short years in our department, Marcos has proven to be one of the most creative and talented hires Cornell has made in many years, and we believe he is a rising star in his field."
Dr. William J. Brown
"There have been many excellent post-docs and graduate students who have come through my lab, over two dozen of whom now hold faculty positions all over the world. I would rank Marcos in the very top tier of this group based on his intellectual rigor, productivity, and amazing insights. His intellectual ability coupled with wonderful laboratory skills are certain to make him an internationally recognized scientist."
Dr. Marianne Bronner