Biology (B.S.B.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Vinoth Sittaramane


Cancer research is a large topic in science, because over 14 million people are diagnosed worldwide, and of those, 8 million will die annually. Traditional therapies are the mainstays of treatment strategies, but a cure less invasive or with less side effects have not yet been identified. In order to develop a better cure, we need to understand the tumor and molecules present in its tissues. Integrins, cell surface proteins that aid in cell communication, have been found in the tumor tissues of several types of cancers, including prostate, lung and bone. Integrin alpha-6 (ITGA6), in particular, has been found to have a large effect on the progression of tumor metastasis. In tumor tissues, we have seen an overexpression of the ITGA6 that leads to tumor metastasis and overall tumor progression. We have also seen an in vitro cleaving mechanism, in which only a cleaved, or extracellular portion of the protein is expressed in the microenvironment. To develop a therapeutic strategy, it is important to understand the role of ITGA6 in tumor development. Using a humanized zebrafish model, we hypothesized that increasing ITGA6 and cleaving ITGA6 will increase tumor metastasis. To study this question, we overproduced ITGA6 by injecting human ITGA6 RNA and reduced the gene using the morpholinos. We also injected cleaved human ITGA6 RNA and non-cleaved, or mutated ITGA6 RNA that could be not removed from the surface of the cell. We then injected human prostate cancer cells and allowed a human tumor microenvironment to develop over two days. Using confocal imaging, we visualized non-metastatic versus metastatic embryos. We utilized a t-test and found p-values of