The Gibson lab focuses on tumor microenvironment and on understanding the mechanisms by which high dose chemotherapy disrupts the function of the bone marrow in its hematopoietic support capacity. Tumor microenvironment studies are aimed at determining how the bone marrow, and more recently, the central nervous system, provide safe harbors for tumor cells during therapy. Clinically, both sites are challenging as anatomical sites in which tumors can be very refractory to treatment and subsequently can contribute to replapse of disease. This work is currently supported by the NCI of the NIH as well as the St. Baldrick's Foundation and has a growing focus on the importance of tumor stem cells as one element of the project. The models are focused predominantly on leukemia, but also include interest in other malignancies that migrate to the marrow or CNS and become difficult to irradicate.
In addition, this work has resulted in an evolving focus on understanding how leukemic cells alter the marrow microenvironment's vasculature resulting in a more angiogenic setting for the tumor to thrive. A second area of interest has been active in the Gibson group for over 15 years and is modeled after the pre-treatment regimens used to prepare patients for bone marrow transplantation. Projects in this general area of the lab's investigations are focused on the damage that is imposed on stromal cells and osteoblasts in the bone marrow that reduce their capacity to support stem cell development and longterm immune system recovery. Both in vitro and in vivo murine models are utilized to evalute the "stem cell niche" and changes associated with chemotherapy induced stress. This work is supported by the NHLBI of the NIH. All investigations include the efforts of research assistants, a postdoctoral fellow, predoctoral students (CCB Program), and students from the undergraduate Biology Honors Program and represent collaborations with clinical colleagues in the Osborn Program of Hematopoietic Malignancies and Transplantation. (Apply for membership to the Osborn program)