Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

Cancer Cell Signaling

Program co-leaders
Andrew C. Larner, M.D., Ph.D.
Sarah Spiegel, Ph.D. 

VCU Massey Cancer Center’s Cancer Cell Signaling (CCS) program consists of a multidisciplinary group of 18 investigators from six academic departments from VCU School of Medicine and VCU College of Humanities and Sciences who share a common interest in examining cellular and molecular signaling events governing neoplastic cell behavior and survival.


The establishment of the CCS program resulted from the restructuring of the former Cancer Cell Biology program into two smaller and more cohesive programs, CCS and Cancer Molecular Genetics.


Scientific goals

  • Examining the role of bioactive lipids in tumor formation
  • Identifying key signaling pathways that are perturbed in cancer cells
  • Understanding the interactions among metabolites, inflammation, bioenergetics, genes and the environment that affect tumorigenesis
  • Identifying potential therapeutic targets and strategies based upon an understanding of cancer cell signaling and developing a rational basis for combining inhibitors of these

The CCS program also has a strong pre-clinical thrust with investigators utilizing xenograft and transgenic models seeking to develop treatments involving agents that act by modulating various signal transduction networks.


The CCS program has a strong extramurally-supported funding base with more than 95 percent from NIH and other peer-reviewed funding sources. CCS fosters the development of intra- and inter-programmatic interactions by organizing seminars and regular meetings among the entire program membership, as well as focused discussion groups with overlapping research interests that have led to numerous co-publications and new collaborative grants.


The success of this broad, interdisciplinary approach to cancer research is demonstrated by the CCS program investigators’ track record of more than 250 publications since 2008, and in developing initiatives that have progressed from basic laboratory studies to a large number of multi-institutional clinical Phase I and II trials with other VCU Massey Cancer Center programs.



  • To enable and enhance research in the scientific goals of the program areas
  • To identify potential areas of collaborative research within the CCS program as well as with members of the other Massey research programs

  • To foster an interactive scientific environment that facilitates the development of these collaborations

  • To encourage interactions and collaborations between laboratory and clinical investigators that promote translation of emerging concepts into clinical practice

  • To ensure ready access of members to state-of-the-art technologies

  • To provide new opportunities for medical, graduate and postdoctoral students, as well as physician scientists, in interdisciplinary cancer cell signaling research