Hangauer Research Group

The Hangauer lab at UC San Diego is interested in non-genetic mechanisms of cancer drug resistance. In particular, we study cancer "persister" cells, a recently identified subpopulation of cancer cells found within melanoma, breast, lung, ovarian and other cancers. Persister cells reversibly enter a quiescent, pro-survival cell state and avoid drug-induced cell death through poorly understood mechanisms. Importantly, these cells can form a reservoir from which drug-resistant tumors may emerge. The distinguishing feature of persister cell biology is the observation that when persister cells are allowed to regrow upon drug withdrawal, the cells become resensitized to the same drug:

This observation indicates that the mechanism of persister cell survival is reversible and therefore not based on irreversible genetic mutations. The relationship between persister cells and cancer cells with pre-existing or acquired drug resistance-conferring mutations remains to be determined. However, we hypothesize that therapeutic eradication of persister cells may serve to increase the durability of treatment responses, perhaps even leading to "cures". Our ultimate goal is to discover and understand persister cell vulnerabilities (e.g. GPX4) and translate our findings into therapeutic approaches that can be applied to benefit cancer patients.


Join the lab!

We are located within the Department of Dermatology in the UC San Diego School of Medicine. Our lab is affiliated with Moores Cancer Center, the UCSD Biomedical Sciences (BMS) Graduate Program, and the Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute (ACTRI). We are a fast growing lab actively recruiting talented scientists from all backgrounds. If you are interested in joining the lab, please contact Prof. Hangauer at mhangauer@ucsd.edu and include your CV.