The VICC.ORG Investigator Directory

Vito Quaranta, M.D.

Professor of Cancer Biology
VICC Member

Contact Information:

771 Preston Building
2220 Pierce Avenue
Nashville, TN 37232
Fax: 615-936-3463


Dr. Vito Quaranta is a Professor of Cancer Biology, Director of the Integrative Cancer Biology Center and Co-Director of the Center for Matrix Biology at Vanderbilt University Medical School, Nashville, TN. His fields of interest are oncology and matrix biology. His favorite research topic is cancer invasion and metastasis. He authored several chapters in medical books and over a hundred scientific articles in these fields. He has been an invited lecturer for numerous organizations, including the American Association for Cancer Research, Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research, American Red Cross, National Cancer Institute, Metastasis Research Society. For over 15 years he served as advisor to the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health. He is associate editor of several scientific journals and regularly reviews for prestigious professional journals. Dr. Quaranta currently focuses on systems biology of cancer invasion. He directs the Vanderbilt Integrative Cancer Biology Center, funded by the National Cancer Institute, where he implements cutting-edge interdisciplinary efforts melding mathematics, engineering, computation and biology, in order to solve the problem of cancer invasion and metastasis. Dr. Quaranta can be contacted at

Research Specialty:

Cancer Systems Biology; Cell Adhesion and Migration

Research Description:


Cancer Systems Biology is the definition of our mixed experimental and theoretical approach to studying many aspects of cancer progression, including invasion, metastasis, resistance to drugs, effects of mutations. Rather than focusing on clarifying details of a molecular or genetic pathway, or specific effects of growth or differentiation factors or proteases or drugs, we try and combine these details into a global picture that specifies overall trends in growth and progression of specific cancer cells under distinct microenvironmental conditions. Thus, we build quantitative hypotheses that translate experimental observations or datasets into computer simulations based of several mathematical modeling techniques, including ordinary or partial differential equations, cellular automata, neural networks, immersed boundary method. To test the hypotheses, we populate these models with datasets from in vitro or animal experiments, or from clinical material. The simulations make theoretical predictions on specific ways experimental variables may affect cancer progression. We then design and perform experiments to validate these predictions, and the outcome of the experimentation is used to evaluate the realism of computer simulations and possibly modify their underlying mathematics. Our group is comprised of an interdisciplinary collection of scientists, including cell and molecular biologists, mathematicians, engineers, bioengineers, bioinformaticians and computational biologists. We thrive on continued personal exchange and looking at cancer research problems through the eyes of different disciplines.


My background is in cancer cell biology, and since 2004 I have gradually transitioned my interests to Cancer Systems Biology. Before my systems biology time, my main interest was discovery of molecular mechanisms whereby integrins and extracellular matrix, especially laminins, modify the microenvironment of cancer cells and affect their behavior. My laboratory has made several contributions on integrin structure/function, and on cancer cell motility onto matrix digested by proteases. These cancer microenvironment studies motivated me to seek approaches that evaluate simultaneously the many variables affecting cancer cell functional phenotypes. Computer and mathematical modeling was an obvious avenue to pursue, and I have been fortunate to encounter brilliant mathematicians with whom I have established productive and exciting collaborations. Through these, I entertain connections with a large world-wide community of systems biologists and mathematical modelers. Our Center for Cancer Systems Biology at Vanderbilt is part of an NCI-funded Integrative Cancer Biology Program that links 12 Centers nationwide with biannual meetings. My group has diversified to include an interdisciplinary collection of cell and molecular biologists, mathematicians, engineers, bioengineers, bioinformaticians and computational biologists. In my group we specialize in connecting cell functional phenotypes with underlying molecular networks, using cell-based modeling techniques resulting in models that can accept large cellular datasets. Vice versa, we insist on establishing in advance that simulation outputs and predictions of computer models we build and study can in fact be validated experimentally. We also investigate noise and robustness in signaling, as it may become modified in cancer progression or in response to stress, drugs (e.g., molecular therapeutics) and microenvironmental perturbations. The goal of our systems approach is to build fundamental knowledge of cancer as a complex process, and seek short-term translational applications of this knowledge. The latter goal is most relevant to rational deployment of targeted therapeutics, one of the most exciting development for cancer treatment in decades. With respect to this goal, my group interacts productively with oncologists (both clinical and surgica


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