Dr Barbara Tanos
Institute of Cancer Research
Institute of Cancer Research
A global nomad, Dr Barbara Tanos received her undergraduate degree from the University Buenos Aires, Argentina, and her PhD in Molecular Cancer Biology from Duke University in North Carolina. As a graduate student in the laboratory of Dr Ann Marie Pendergast, Dr Tanos became interested in how signal transduction pathways regulate basic biological processes such as the trafficking of growth factor receptors throughout the cell. During her graduate studies, Dr Tanos uncovered a novel role of Abl tyrosine kinases in inhibiting the internalisation of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) through specific phosphorylation of a tyrosine residue.
After receiving her PhD, Dr Tanos continued to study protein trafficking in the laboratory of Dr Enrique Rodriguez-Boulan, where she focused on the Ras effector IQGAP1 and its role in tight junction formation and maintenance.
In the last few years, Dr Tanos has expanded her interests in cell biological processes to include the study of centrosome biology and ciliogenesis, and has uncovered a new group of centriolar proteins required for cilia formation. She has shown that these proteins, known as distal appendage proteins (or DAPs), are required for centriole docking to the plasma membrane, and for the recruitment of specific proteins to the transition zone.
Dr Tanos’s laboratory specialises in identifying and characterising differences in signal transduction events in normal versus cancer cells. Her approach is based on understanding how normal and cancer cells sense their environment, and to use this information to find and exploit therapeutically useful vulnerabilities in cancer cells. In this context, her research covers the study of centrioles, cilia and epithelial polarity.
Her research focuses on two kinds of cellular sensing mechanisms: 1) Centralized sensing enabled by centrioles and cilia, which function as sensory hubs; and 2) regional sensing enabled by intercellular compartmentalization, which is a consequence of polarity and junction formation. Both of these sensing mechanisms can trigger signal transduction events that elicit a biological response. Her goal is to understand how these two mechanisms of sensing work, whether there is a crosstalk between them, and how they affect cellular behaviour, both in normal and in cancer cells.
Dr Tanos uses both gene editing and RNAi to switch the expression of proteins of interest on and off, as well as a number of microscopy and biochemical techniques to study the functional contribution of epithelial polarity, centrioles and cilia to malignant transformation. The ultimate goal is to understand how these processes are altered in cancer and use this knowledge to identify novel therapeutic strategies.