Inflammation is like a double-edged sword. While it is an intricately orchestrated process designed to rid our body of invading material, inflammation has been also been shown to aid and abet cancer development. Our lab has a particular interest in this link between chronic inflammation and cancer in colitis-associated cancer. In this context, we are trying to understand the role of p38MAPK/MK2 pathway in the DNA damage response (DDR) as a master regulator of pro-inflammatory cytokines in ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease and the tumors derived as a consequence of the disease. We use both realistic in vivo models and the recently developed organoid cultures or "mini-guts".
Additionally, we are interested in the role of p38MAPK/MK2 in the regulation of tumor microenvironment and response to chemotherapy. To study this, we developed the Cre-versible mouse, which enables the generation of both MK2 positive and MK2 negative tumors within the same animal.
Immunofluorescence of a colon organoid showing Paneth cells (in red), b-catenin (in green), and nuclei (in blue). Image courtesy of Lucia Suarez-Lopez.