Erkki Ruoslahti

Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute


Election Year: 1999
Primary Section: 41, Medical Genetics, Hematology, and Oncology
Secondary Section: 22, Cellular and Developmental Biology
Membership Type: Member

Research Interests

I am interested in what makes normal cells find their appropriate place in tissues, what keeps them there, and how cancer cells circumvent these controls making them capable of colonizing distant sites in the body. We and others have shown that the attachment of cells to an insoluble protein network that the cells elaborate into the intercellular space, the extracellular matrix (ECM), is important in these phenomena. My laboratory showed that the tripeptide, arginine-glycine-aspartic acid or RGD, is the site recognized by cells in the ECM protein fibronectin. We then isolated cell surface receptors for RGD. These were some of the founding members of the integrin family of receptors. RGD-like compounds are now used in the clinic as antithrombotics and RGD-based cancer drug are being developed. Recently, I have been working on the mechanisms of tissue-specific metastasis. We have shown that the endothelial cells in various tissues express tissue-specific cell surface molecules; they may serve as receptors for metastasizing tumor cells. We have developed peptides that home specifically to the vasculature of individual tissues or tumors in mice. Anti-cancer drugs targeted into tumors with these peptides show increased efficacy and decreased side effects.

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