Department Seminar

AXL in cancer drug resistance: A tumor/immune system nexus

Speaker Details:

Douglas A. Lauffenburger
Ford Professor of Bioengineering, Head of the Department of Biological Engineering
MIT

Lecture Details:

May 12, 2016
12:30-1:20 p.m.
Foege N130A, Wallace H. Coulter Seminar Room

Abstract:

Resistance to therapeutics, whether in primary (present at the time of initial treatment) or
secondary (emerging dynamically following treatment) mode, is becoming appreciated as a generally
encountered issue in cancer treatment, so elucidating underlying mechanisms and identifying approaches for
overcoming these is a major current challenge. In the area of therapeutics directed against specific kinase
signaling pathway targets, the most readily ascertained resistance mechanisms arise from particular genetic
mutations in the targeted pathway but a substantial proportion appear to derive from “bypass signaling”
involving drug-elicited activation of alternative pathways. Our research efforts, along with those in other
laboratories, focused on bypass signaling over the past few years have led to indication of the receptor tyrosine
kinase AXL as a chief locus of cancer drug resistance. Because the physiological role of AXL resides in the immune
system, interesting and important questions relate to understanding how it is activated in tumor cells and how
this relates to tumor/immune system interactions. This seminar will present a set of integrated studies garnering
insights for how AXL becomes a significant source of bypass signaling in response to kinase-targeted
therapeutics and raising questions concerning how to address this resistance mechanism.

Speaker Bio:

Dr. Lauffenburger’s BS and PhD degrees are in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois and the
University of Minnesota, in 1975 and 1979 respectively. His major research interests are in cell engineering: the
fusion of engineering with molecular cell biology. A central focus of his research program is in receptor-mediated
cell communication and intracellular signal transduction, with emphasis on development of predictive
computational models derived from quantitative experimental studies, for cell cue/signal/response relationships
important in pathophysiology with application to drug discovery and development. Lauffenburger has coauthored
a monograph entitled Receptors: Models for Binding, Trafficking & Signaling, published by Oxford
University Press in 1993; he has also co-edited the book entitled Systems Biomedicine: Concepts and Perspectives,
published by Elsevier in 2010.

Prof. Lauffenburger has served as a consultant or scientific advisory board member for Astra-Zeneca, Beyond
Genomics, CellPro, Complete Genomics, Eli Lilly, Entelos, Genentech, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Merrimack,
Pfizer, the Burroughs-Wellcome Fund, and the Whitaker Foundation. His awards include the Pierre Galletti Award
from AIMBE, the A.P. Colburn Award, Bioengineering Division Award, and W.H. Walker Award from AIChE, the
Distinguished Lecture Award and the Shu Chien Lifetime Achievement Award from BMES, the C.W. McGraw
Award from ASEE, the Amgen Award in Biochemical Engineering from the Engineering Foundation, and a J.S.
Guggenheim Fellowship, along with a number of named lectures at academic institutions. He is a member of
the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and has served as President
of the Biomedical Engineering Society, Chair of the College of Fellows of American Institute for Medical &
Biological Engineering, and on the Advisory Council for NIGMS, and as a co-author of the 2009 NRC report on A
New Biology for the 21st Century.