The Stacker laboratory has an interest in the growth factors, growth factor receptors and signalling pathways that control cells in the tumour microenvironment, in particular those of the blood vessels, lymphatic vessels and stroma.

Currently the laboratory is addressing the following questions:

  • What controls the remodelling of blood and lymphatic vessels in human disease?
  • What biomarkers exist to predict or monitor these events?
  • How do we improve the use of existing anti-angiogenic therapies?
  • What changes occur to organ-specific vessels and how might they affect organ-specific diseases?
  • How can we understand the different responses of the hierarchy of vessels in the vascular system (both blood and lymphatic vessels)?
  • Can we find new and improved targets for angiogenesis/lymphangiogenesis or vessel remodelling, and are there existing drugs that modulate their function?
  • How does the broader tumour microenvironment signal to coordinate the interaction of blood vessels, lymphatic vessels, stroma and immune cells to drive tumour progression?
  • Can we discover new signalling pathways to control cancer or resistance to current anti-cancer therapeutics?
Stacker laboratory team
Stacker laboratory team

Research projects

Role of novel growth factor receptors in cancer

RYK is a Wnt-binding receptor tyrosine kinase that is involved in the growth and differentiation of mammalian cells. We have previously shown a role for this receptor in planar cell polarity signalling. Our current interest is defining the role RYK plays in transducing signals within tumour cells that might be involved in driving resistance to known therapeutic drugs.

Signaling pathways controlling lymphangiogenesis and lymphatic vessel remodeling

Changes to lymphatic vessels potentially underlie the development of various human pathologies. We have previously shown the key role that lymphangiogenesis plays in modifying lymphatic vessels in primary tumours and lymph nodes during cancer progression and metastasis. Using in vitro assays for endothelial cell migration and tube formation, we have interrogated the human genome for genes involved in lymphatic endothelial cell migration, a key aspect of lymphangiogenesis and lymphatic vessel remodelling. Examining candidates from these screens has provided both cellular targets and biomarkers that are currently under investigation.

Resistance to anti-angiogenic drugs

Avastin (bevacizumab; anti-VEGF-A) is therapeutic antibody that inhibits the action of VEGF-A, blocks the formation of new blood vessels and is used to treat a variety of cancers. While Avastin represents a major targeted therapy, many patients do not gain any benefit from Avastin treatment, and those that do ultimately develop resistance. We have established sophisticated in vitro model systems to understand the role of blood endothelial cells in this resistance, and have employed siRNA screening approaches to identify molecules and signalling pathways that mediate the resistance.

Role of collecting lymphatic vessels in cancer metastasis

We have led studies that have examined the role of collecting lymphatic vessels and the cells that line these vessels, so-called collecting lymphatic endothelial cells (cLECs), in cancer metastasis. We are interested in their unique cell biology and how they interact with the prostaglandin pathway to modulate the host response to tumour progression and metastasis.

People

Dr Michael Halford, Postdoctoral Fellow
Dr Rae Farnsworth, Postdoctoral Fellow
Carol Casaer, Senior Research Assistant
Sara Lamont, Research Assistant
Michael He, PhD Student
James Roy, PhD Student
Valeria Arcucci, PhD Student
Caroline Bell, Honours Student

Key publications

Le CP, Nowell CJ, Kim-Fuchs C, Botteri E, Hiller JG, Ismail H, Pimentel MA,Chai MG, Karnezis T, Rotmensz N, Renne G, Gandini S, Pouton CW, Ferrari D, Möller A, Stacker SA, Sloan EK (2016). Chronic stress in mice remodels lymph vasculature to promote tumour cell dissemination. Nat Commun. 7:10634.

Stacker SA, Williams SP, Karnezis T, Shayan R, Fox SB, Achen MG (2014). Lymphangiogenesis and lymphatic vessel remodelling in cancer. Nat Rev Cancer.14(3):159-72.

Farnsworth RH, Lackmann M, Achen MG, Stacker SA (2014). Vascular remodeling in cancer. Oncogene.33(27):3496-505.

Halford MM, Macheda ML, Parish CL, Takano EA, Fox S, Layton D, Nice E, Stacker SA (2013). A fully human inhibitory monoclonal antibody to the Wnt receptor RYK. PLoS One.8(9):e75447.

Macheda ML, Sun WW, Kugathasan K, Hogan BM, Bower NI, Halford MM, Zhang YF, Jacques BE, Lieschke GJ, Dabdoub A, Stacker SA (2012). The Wnt receptor Ryk plays a role in mammalian planar cell polarity signaling. J Biol Chem.287(35):29312-23.

Karnezis T, Shayan R, Caesar C, Roufail S, Harris NC, Ardipradja K, Zhang YF, Williams SP, Farnsworth RH, Chai MG, Rupasinghe TW, Tull DL, Baldwin ME, Sloan EK, Fox SB, Achen MG, Stacker SA (2012). VEGF-D promotes tumor metastasis by regulating prostaglandins produced by the collecting lymphatic endothelium. Cancer Cell.21(2):181-95.

Farnsworth RH, Karnezis T, Shayan R, Matsumoto M, Nowell CJ, Achen MG, Stacker SA (2011). A role for bone morphogenetic protein-4 in lymph node vascular remodeling and primary tumor growth. Cancer Res.71(20):6547-57.

Research programs

Positions available

The Stacker laboratory provides training opportunities for the following students:

  • Undergraduate Research Program (UROP)
  • BSc (Hons)
  • MSc
  • PhD.