Dr. Cress is a Professor in the Department of Cellular & Molecular Medicine and Deputy Dean for Research and Academic Affairs at the College of Medicine at the University of Arizona. Her research interests include investigating the regulation of cell surface molecules called integrins and defective cell adhesion to the extracellular matrix in disease processes and tissue damage responses. The practical application of the work has resulted in several patent awards on new anti-adhesion peptides that are currently being tested for their ability to prevent cancer metastasis and to sensitize cancer to currently available therapies. Dr. Cress has a 25-year history of contributing to interdisciplinary research through the publication of more than 100 original research articles. Her national service includes permanent membership on scientific study sections including those organized by NIH, the Department of Defense and the American Cancer Society.
Dr. Cress's lab is dedicated to elucidating the molecular mechanisms of human cancer progression and metastasis. Specifically, the Cress lab studies the regulation of cell surface molecules (called integrins) and their role in cancer cell adhesion to the extracellular matrix. Among their many contributions, the Cress research team discovered that laminin adhesion structures are dramatically altered in human cancer resulting in invasion, metastasis, and drug resistance. Additionally, her lab has shown that the laminin binding integrins, (A6B1, A3B1, and A6B4 integrin) can be targeted to prevent cancer progression and metastasis by inducing dormant disease. Dr. Cress and her team have contributed many publications in this area and developed three approaches to interrupt cell adhesion to laminin: (1) using cyclized peptides, (2) deploying small molecules, and/or (3) using a function-blocking antibody.
Dr. Cress spent a sabbatical period working at a drug development and design institute in Australia to screen and design peptide ligand mimetics. In a second sabbatical, she worked at the Netherlands Cancer Institute to screen for anti-integrin antibodies in the laboratory of Dr. Arnoud Sonnenberg, who discovered the A6B4 integrin and continues to work on its regulation. As both an educator and researcher, her work is characterized by a team-based approach using experts in human oncology, cell biology, biochemistry, and pharmacology to propose and test innovative solutions to address unmet clinical needs.
Arizona Health Sciences Center Founder’s Day Award, University of Arizona, 2005
Elkin Award for Cancer Biology Research, Emory University, 2005
Sydney E. Salmon Award, Senior Investigator, Arizona Cancer Center, University of Arizona, 2008