M. Sharon Stack

M. Sharon Stack

Ann F. Dunne and Elizabeth Riley Director of Harper Cancer Research Institute, Kleiderer-Pezold Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry

University of Notre Dame

Dr. M. Sharon Stack received her PhD degree in Biochemistry from the University of Louisville, completed post-doctoral training in biochemical pathology at Duke University Medical Center, and served for several years as a Research Assistant Professor in Pathology at Duke. In 1994, she joined the faculty in the Department of Cell & Molecular Biology at Northwestern University where she rose through the ranks to tenured Professor. While at Northwestern, Dr. Stack was also Program Leader of the Tumor Invasion, Metastasis and Angiogenesis Program of the NCI-designated RH Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center (RHLCCC) and a member of the RHLCCC Executive Committee.   She joined the University of Missouri in 2007 as Professor and Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences. She is currently (since 2011) Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Ann F. Dunne and Elizabeth Riley Director of the Harper Cancer Research Institute, University of Notre Dame. Dr. Stack was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2012. She currently serves as a full member of the NIH/NCI Tumor Progression and Metastasis study section for a second term through 2025, on review panels for many other funding agencies, and recently completed a term on the Department of Defense Ovarian Cancer Research Program (DOD OCRP) Integration Panel and Vision Setting Panels (2012-2017). She is on the Editorial Board of Cancer Research and is a retired member of the Journal of Biological Chemistry and Biochemical Journal Editorial Boards. Dr. Stack’s laboratory has been continuously funded by the NIH/NCI since 1989.

Dr. Stack has published over 175 peer-reviewed research articles and reviews. The Stack laboratory has focused for many years on the regulation of metastasis, with specific emphasis on the role of cell adhesion and matrix remodeling in two tumor models: epithelial ovarian cancer (OvCa) and squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity (OSCC).  Metastatic OvCa cells colonize the peritoneal cavity following dissemination from the ovarian surface, survival in suspension as multicellular aggregates (MCAs) in carcinomatous ascites fluid, attachment to the peritoneal surface and localized invasion into the sub-mesothelial matrix to anchor secondary lesions.  A number of in vitro 3-dimensional and organotypic models of key events in OvCa metastatsis have been developed, with which to evaluate the effect of various cellular and micro-environmental manipulations on metastatic success.  Organotypic mesothelial-mimetic (meso-mimetic) cultures comprised of fibroblast-embedded 3D collagen gels overlaid with mesothelial cells as well as ex vivo tissue explant models of the peritoneum and omentum are also employed. Additionally, the laboratory has focused extensively on xenograft and allograft studies of OvCa intra-peritoneal metastasis, with particular emphasis on the use of advanced imaging methods to accurately quantify widely disseminated intra-peritoneal metastatic burden. Ongoing projects are aimed toward elucidating the contribution of host factors such as obesity, age, and parity to OvCa metastatic success. The laboratory is also examining the role of extracellular vesicles (exosomes, both tumor and host) in these processes.  In oral cancer research, the Stack laboratory is currently focused on cancer of the oropharynx associated with human papillomavirus (HPV) infection (HPV-OPSCC).  A panel of in vitro analysis together with an ex vivo tonsillar explant model are in use to define the biological function of microRNAs, induced in host cells by an onogenic HPV infection, in progression of OPSCC. Within this framework, understanding the multiple micro-environmental cues that contribute to metastatic success is a major focus of the laboratory.