Michaela Reagan, PhD
Faculty Scientist II
Center for Molecular Medicine

Reagan Lab

Discovering new ways to eradicate cancer cells.

Multiple Myeloma

Multiple myeloma (MM) is a blood cancer that grows predominantly within the bone marrow and, like many other bone-metastatic cancers, causes painful tissue destruction, disruption of hematopoiesis, bone fractures, and hypercalcemia. There is no cure for multiple myeloma and most patients eventually become resistant to all current therapies. Our research focuses on understanding the roles that fat cells (adipocytes), bone cells (osteoblast lineage cells), and other cells in the bone marrow niche play in mediating the progression of Multiple Myeloma. In addition to local bone marrow interactions, we are also exploring metabolic and systemic host effects that may drive myeloma disease progression and we are exploring ways to interfere in this process.  The characterization of how and why bone marrow stromal cells are altered by cancer cells is another focus in my lab. Research in these areas will contribute to the discovery of novel molecular targets and development of better therapies to affect not only cancer cells, but also tumor-associated stromal cells to impede tumor growth and cancer-induced bone disease.

To study myeloma growth in a more realistic 3D bone-like environment, our lab develops novel 3D, tissue engineering in vitro models of bone-cancer interactions (Figure 1). We use these models to interrogate host cell roles in myeloma and to better define spatial and temporal growth of MM within different niches of the BM. We also use in vivo mouse models to understand how and why myeloma grows in the bone marrow (Figure 2). Using methods such as Immunohistochemistry, and microComputed Tomography, among many other tools and technologies, we are starting to understand more about the growth of MM within bone and its bone-destructive nature (Figure 3). We aim to better understand biological mechanisms driving MM and develop better therapies to deliver anti-cancer agents directly to the bone marrow. We also aim to identify better targets for anti-cancer therapy and better biomarkers to predict the occurrence of MM and patient progression or response.

Figure 1

Figure 1 Left to Right: A Curious Silk worm, Silk Cocoons, a Silk Fibroid Protein Scaffold, Bone Cells on a Silk Scaffold creating a Tissue-Engineered Bone, and Myeloma Cells in Tissue-Engineered Bone.

Figure 2

Figure 2 Left to Right: Mice with Tumors used to find novel cures and better treatments for Myeloma, Bone Marrow with Myeloma Tumor Cells, a uCT image of a femur with bone destruction due to Myeloma Growth.

Figure 3

Figure 3: Top Left: Immunohistochemistry of Myeloma Tumor cells within bone using CD138 Antibodies. Top Right: H&E Staining of Myeloma cells in Bone Marrow of mice. Bottom Left: Example of Normal Mouse Bone Trabeculae in Femur and Bottom Right: Example of Bone Disease and Decreased Trabecular Bone within Mouse Femur.

Check out lab member Heather Fairfield’s scientific talk from the Lambrew Research Retreat.  She received the Thomas Maciag Award for Excellence in Basic & Translational Science a Faculty/Staff Award. Her talk title: Investigation of the Relationship Between Obesity, Weight Cycling, and Tumor Progression in a Myeloma Xenograft Model