Tissue fibrosis is implicated in ~40% of all deaths in the western world and causes enormous health care costs, yet no effective treatment exists. According to the WHO, in North America there are more than 60,000 new pancreatic cancer diagnoses every year, with a catastrophic 5-year survival rate less than 5%.
What do both dramatic scenarios have in common? The matricellular protein Connective Tissue Growth Factor (CTGF, also called CCN2) plays a pivotal role in the
mediation of both tissue regeneration and fibrosis and interferes with the fibrotic environment driving cancer initiation and progression.
CTGF is up regulated in many tumors and is accepted as a profibrotic mediator in the tumor microenvironment by mediating the TGF-beta dependent crosstalk. Blockage of the CTGF-mediated tumor-stromal interplay is a most promising therapeutic strategy. The Stetefeld lab aims to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying CTGF-mediated assemblies and to develop agents that block the formation of CTGF complexes via AI-driven structure- based drug design.