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Maria Castro

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Primary Appointment: Neurosurgery
Primary PIBS Dept.: Cell and Developmental Biology
Other PIBS Depts.: Cancer Biology, Neuroscience
PubMed Name: Castro MG
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  My research program focuses on epigenetic regulation of cancer progression, uncovering the role of oncometabolites in the brain tumor microenvironment. My program also aims to develop novel models of pediatric malignant glioma, including DIPG. We are aiming to use these genetically engineered murine models to uncover molecular mechanisms that mediate tumor progression and implement novel therapeutic approaches which will ultimately be translated to human clinical trials. We are also developing novel immunotherapies for primary and metastatic brain cancer, studying basic immune-biology mechanisms leading to clinical implementation. My team is investigating the role of the tumor immune-microenvironment in tumor progression and response to therapeutics; crosstalk between cancer cells and hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells, and mechanisms affecting the migration of immune cells from peripheral lymphoid organs to the tumor microenvironment. Our innovative work has led to an FDA approved gene therapy Phase 1 clinical trial for malignant brain cancer which is ongoing at the University of Michigan, Department of Neurosurgery.
There are several projects offered to students who aim to rotate in my laboratory:
1- Novel models of brain cancer utilizing the Sleeping Beauty transposase system to lentivirus vectors to over-express oncogenes or tumor suppressor genes. Role of cancer stem-like cells in tumor progression in vivo.
2- Epigenetics and malignant brain cancer progression; bioinformatics analysis.
3- Development and expansion of hematopoitec myeloid precursors during tumor progression: implementation of novel therapeutic targets.
4- Manipulating the tumor micro-environment to develop anti-tumor immunity. Development of novel immune mediated gene therapy approaches for cancer.