Shannon Mumenthaler

PIBBS Mentor

Assistant Professor of Research Medicine
Keck School of Medicine/ Center for Applied Molecular Medicine

Research Topics

  • Cancer Cell Biology
  • Tumor Microenvironment
  • Drug Resistance
  • Physical Sciences in Onocology

Research Overview

We aim to bring together minds from diverse backgrounds (mathematics, engineering, biology, oncology) to explore critical areas in cancer through innovative thinking, challenging ideas, and generating novel technologies. Our current research focuses on developing strategies to 1) gain a better understanding of the fundamental physical and biological processes involved in cancer progression; and 2) determine optimal treatment strategies (e.g. drug, dose, schedule) to improve progression-free and overall survival times in the clinic.

A patients' response to therapy is significantly impacted by the tumor composition and the selective forces acting on it. It is believed that the tumor's local microenvironment (e.g. nutrients, oxygen, drug, extracellular matrix, and interaction with adjacent non-tumor cells) is a major contributor to the heterogeneity observed in treatment response. For example, response to drugs may be inhibited or enhanced by the local nutrient density as seen with hypoxia, which negatively affects the responsiveness of cancer cells to chemotherapy and radiation. Therefore, it is important for us to define and ultimately disrupt aspects of the environment which may contribute to therapeutic resistance. Toward this objective, we are combining several high-throughput technologies (next-generation sequencing and high content imaging) to understand the tumor's interaction with its environment across scales (molecular and cellular level), with a focus in colon, lung, and breast cancer. In addition, we are closely collaborating with mathematical modelers to combine novel computational platforms with diverse experimental measurements of tumor cell behavior to make clinically relevant predictions of treatment response. Careful consideration of environmental influences on drug response through rationally designed treatment strategies may lead to better clinical outcomes.