Host-Tumor Interactions Research Program

Mary M. Zutter, M.D.

Mary M. Zutter, M.D.

The Host-Tumor Interaction Research (HT) Program focuses on the concept that tumor growth, invasion, and metastasis depend not only on the tumor cell alone but also on the complex interactions between the tumor cells and its “host.” The important role that the “microenvironment” of cells and tissue around the tumor plays in tumor biology provides an exceptional opportunity for novel therapeutic strategies.

Program Leader: Mary Zutter, Ph.D.

Scientific Goals

The overarching objective of the Host Tumor Interaction (HT) program is to define the interactions between tumor cells and the host, then develop strategies to target these interactions in order to control tumor progression and metastasis. The scientific goals fit into defining the role and mechanisms of the stromal cells, including the fibroblasts, endothelial and lymphatic elements, the matrix and the inflammatory/immune cells and/or the hematopoietic cells as critical targets for therapeutic intervention. Thus the scientific goals of the program are to:

  1. Identify molecules involved in communication between the tumor and host.
  2. Advance new reagents and techniques capable of validating a molecular therapeutic target (imaging techniques, antibodies, probes, genetically altered mice, small molecules, etc).
  3. Cultivate in vitro and in vivo model systems for proof-of-principle experimentation and testing of therapeutics.
  4. Foster interactions and collaborations that will accelerate these discoveries.

The HT Research Program focuses on the concept that tumor growth, invasion, and metastasis depend not on the tumor cell alone but on the complex interactions between the tumor cells and the host. The important role that the host microenvironment plays in tumor biology provides an exceptional opportunity for novel therapeutic strategies.

About the Program Leader

Mary M. Zutter, M.D. assumed the role of Program Leader of the Host-Tumor Interactions Program in the spring of 2004. She is Professor of Pathology and Cancer Biology, and Ingram Professor of Cancer Research. She received her M.D. from Tulane University School of Medicine and completed a residency and hematopathology fellowship training in the Departments of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Washington. She was recruited to the faculty of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in 2003 from the Department of Pathology at Washington University School of Medicine. Dr. Zutter focuses on the role of cell adhesion molecules in host-tumor interactions. She has been funded continuously from the NIH for the last 17 years and is currently supported by three R01 grants from the NCI. Her laboratory focuses on the molecular basis of cell adhesion to collagen and its role in cancer biology. Much of this effort has been centered on the a2ß1 integrin. The a2ß1 integrin, a receptor for collagens, laminins, decorin, E-cadherin, MMP-1, endorepellin, angiocidin, and several viruses, has been implicated in normal developmental, inflammatory, and oncogenic processes. Her lab’s initial examination of integrin expression in human solid tumors revealed that the a2ß1 integrin was highly expressed in the epithelium of ducts and ductules of normal breast tissue. The work of the Zutter laboratory using detailed in vivo and in vitro model systems demonstrates that the a2ß1 integrin plays an important role in regulating tumor metastasis. Ongoing work focuses on the role of the a2ß1 integrin as a metastasis suppressor gene and the mechanisms by which the a2ß1 integrin mediates its anti-metastatic role when expressed either by the tumor cell, or functions as a metastasis efficiency modifier gene when expressed by cells of the microenvironment.

Dr. Zutter is on the Steering Committee for the Tumor Microenvironment subcommittee of the American Association of Cancer Research and is an associate editor of Cancer Research. She is a past member of both the Pathology B and Tumor Microenvironment Study Sections of the NCI/NIH. Dr. Zutter functions as the Director of Hematopathology within the Department of Pathology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Her interests and expertise merge both basic science and clinical relevance to host-tumor interactions.

As HT Program Leader, Dr. Zutter contributes to organizing the yearly HT sponsored retreat. She instigated the program meetings on “Hot Topics” and organizes these mini-retreats. She is also responsible for hosting and coordinating the visits of guest speakers in areas of host tumor interactions. She focuses on identifying opportunities and catalyzing collaborations for pharmaceutical participation and she works in identifying funding opportunities that advance the goals of HT program members. She has played a role in decisions related to pilot funding of projects funded by both the CCSG and philanthropic gifts to the Cancer Center to fund young investigators. Dr. Zutter contributes to the strategic planning retreats and initiatives to define the future directions of VICC. She is instrumental in the recruitment of new faculty, including Drs. Zijlstra, Zinkel and Mosse to Vanderbilt and into the HT program. As the Program Leader, she also serves as a mentor to a number of the junior faculty both in the program and in other programs, including the Breast program. She is a mentor of Drs. Young (HT), Zinkel (ST), Mosse (HT), and Yankeelov (BC).

Program Members

  • Abel, Ty William, M.D., Ph.D.
    Associate Professor of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology; Researcher
  • Abramson, Richard G., M.D.
    Assistant Professor of Radiology and Radiological Sciences
  • Boothby, Mark R., M.D., Ph.D.
    Professor of Medicine (Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology); Researcher
  • Bornhop, Darryl J., Ph.D.
    Professor of Chemistry; Researcher
  • Caprioli, Richard M., Ph.D.
    Stanford Moore Professor of Biochemistry; Professor of Chemistry, Medicine, Pharmacology; Director, Mass Spectrometry Research Center; Researcher
  • Chen, Jin, M.D., Ph.D.
    Professor of Medicine (Rheumatology); Professor of Cell and Development Biology; Professor of Cancer Biology; Researcher
  • Crowe, James E., Jr., M.D.
    Ann Scott Carrell Professor of Pediatrics(Pediatric Infectious Disease); Professor of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology; Director, Vanderbilt Vaccine Center; Director, VANTAGE; Researcher
  • Dawant, Benoit, Ph.D.
    Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair in Engineering, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science ; Professor of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science; Professor of Radiology and Radiological Sciences; Professor of Biomedical Engineering; Researcher
  • Dhawan, Punita, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor of Surgery; Researcher
  • Elefteriou, Florent, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor of Cancer Biology; Assistant Professor of Medicine (Pharmacology); Researcher
  • Fingleton, Barbara, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor of Cancer Biology; Researcher
  • Giorgio, Todd D., Ph.D.
    Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Cancer Biology Chemical Engineering; Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering; Chair, Department of Biomedical Engineering; Researcher
  • Gore, John C., Ph.D.
    Hertha Ramsey Cress Professor of Medicine; University Professor of Radiology and Radiological Sciences; Professor of Biomedical Engineering - Molecular Physiology and Biophysics - Physics and Astronomy; Director, Vanderbilt University Institute of Imaging Science; Researcher
  • Hamid, Rizwan, M.D., Ph.D.
    Associate Professor of Pediatrics; Assistant Professor of Cancer Biology; Researcher
  • Hayward, Simon W., Ph.D.
    Professor of Urologic Surgery, Cancer Biology; Researcher
  • Hudson, Billy G., Ph.D.
    Elliot V. Newman Professor of Medicine (Nephrology); Professor of Biochemistry; Director, Center for Matrix Biology; Researcher
  • Jessen, Jason R., Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor of Medicine (Genetic Medicine); Assistant Professor of Cancer Biology; Researcher
  • Kaverina, Irina, Ph.D.
    Associate Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology; Researcher
  • Mahadevan-Jansen, Anita, Ph.D.
    Orrin H. Ingram Professor of Biomedical Engineering; Researcher
  • Moses, Harold L., M.D.
    Ingram Professor of Cancer Research; Professor of Cancer Biology, Medicine and Pathology; Interim Chair, Department of Cancer Biology; Director Emeritus, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center; Researcher
  • Page-McCaw, Andrea, Ph.D.
    Associate Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology
  • Park, Serk In, D.D.S, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor of Medicine (Clinical Pharmacology); Assistant Professor of Cancer Biology; Researcher
  • Peek, Richard, Jr., M.D.
    Mina Cobb Wallace Professor of Immunology; Professor of Medicine (Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition); Professor of Cancer Biology; Director of Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition; Researcher
  • Pham, Wellington, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor of Radiology and Radiological Sciences; Researcher
  • Pozzi, Ambra, Ph.D.
    Professor of Cancer Biology; Professor of Medicine (Nephrology); Associate Professor of Molecular Physiology & Biophysics; Researcher
  • Quaranta, Vito, M.D.
    Professor of Cancer Biology; Researcher
  • Quarles, C. Chad, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor of Radiology and Radiological Sciences; Researcher
  • Richmond, Ann, Ph.D.
    Ingram Professor of Cancer Research; Professor of Cancer Biology; Vice Chair, Department of Cancer Biology; Researcher
  • Shanker, Anil, M.S., Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Cancer Biology, Meharry Medical College
  • Skala, Melissa, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering
  • Takahashi, Takamune, M.D., Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor of Medicine (Nephrology); Researcher
  • Van Kaer, Luc, Ph.D.
    Elizabeth and John Shapiro Professor of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology; Researcher
  • Weaver, Alissa, M.D. , Ph.D.
    Associate Professor of Cancer Biology, Pathology; Researcher
  • Wikswo, John P., Jr., Ph.D.
    Gordon A Cain University Professor; A. B. Learned Professor of Living Physics; Professor of Molecular Physiology, Biophysics, Biomedical Engineering, Physics; Director, VIIBRE; Researcher
  • Yankeelov, Thomas E., Ph.D.
    Ingram Associate Professor of Cancer Research ; Associate Professor of Radiology and Radiological Sciences, Biomedical Engineering, Physics and Astronomy, and Cancer Biology; Director of Cancer Imaging Research, Vanderbilt University Institute of Imaging Science (VUIIS); Researcher
  • Young, Pampee, M.D., Ph.D.
    Medical Director and Assistant Professor of Pathology and Medicine ; Researcher
  • Zent, Roy, M.D., Ph.D.
    Thomas F. Frist, Sr. Professor of Medicine (Nephrology); Professor of Cancer Biology, Cell and Developmental Biology; Researcher
  • Zijlstra, Andries, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology; Assistant Professor of Cancer Biology; Researcher
  • Zutter, Mary M., M.D.
    Louise B McGavock Professor of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology; Professor of Cancer Biology; Assistant Vice Chancellor, Integrated Diagnostics; Director, VICC Tumor-Host Interaction Program; Pathologist

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