Jennifer Gillette, PhD
Department of Pathology
Cellular and Molecular Oncology
I am an Associate Professor of Pathology and full member of UNM’s P30 Comprehensive Cancer Center. The bone marrow provides the regulatory microenvironment or niche for the proliferation and survival of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs), which give rise to all blood and immune cells and repopulate the bone marrow after stem cell transplantation. HSPCs traffic between the blood circulation and the bone marrow moving in and out of niche sites where they interact with soluble and adhesive components of the marrow. These interactions provide cues for HSPC proliferation, quiescence, survival and trafficking. Moreover, specific leukemias, such as acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), arise from mutations within HSPC populations, resulting in cancer stem cells that traffic to the bone marrow where they are often protected from various chemotherapies. Similarly, it is becoming clearer that solid tumors such as ovarian cancer cells can also be identified within the bone marrow of patients even after chemotherapy regimens. Recognizing that similar signaling and bone marrow trafficking mechanisms are likely being used by HSPCs, leukemias, and ovarian cancer cells, my research applies a combinatorial, experimental approach, utilizing multiple imaging modalities and in vivo models, to elucidate the molecules and mechanisms that mediate cell communication within the bone marrow microenvironment. Currently, we are focused on the tetraspanin family of membrane scaffolds and their regulatory role in cell adhesion, migration and signal transduction.