Jason R. Cantor

Photograph of Jason R. Cantor
Assistant Professor (also with the Morgridge Institute for Research, Affiliate, Dept. of Biomedical Engineering)
B.S., Cornell University
Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin
Postdoctoral, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research/MIT
Phone: (608) 316-4565
Email: jrcantor2@wisc.edu

Studies human cell metabolism and
how it is impacted by environmental factors

Altered metabolism is a nearly universal characteristic of cancer. Similarly, normal lymphocytes require metabolic adaptations to satisfy various proliferative and effector function demands. However, the nutrient regulation, preferences and requirements that allow different cancer cells to survive or different immune cells to properly function remain poorly understood. Therefore, the significant interest to exploit cancer metabolism or to modulate immunometabolism for patient benefit will require an improved understanding of cellular metabolism and the influence of metabolite availability on other cellular processes in these diverse cell types.

Cartoon of petri dishIllustration by Huston Design,
www.hustondesign.com

Cell culture offers an experimental system of unmatched scope, flexibility, and accessibility both to investigate cell physiology and to evaluate drug efficacy and toxicity. And implicit to the use of cultured cells for these aims is an expectation that in vitro phenotypes reasonably reflect in vivo cell behavior. However, while it has become better appreciated that environmental factors influence metabolism and other intertwined cellular processes, our understanding of cancer (and immune cell) physiology and drug toxicity is largely based on cells cultured in media that poorly resemble the composition of human blood. The overarching hypothesis of our group is that conventional model systems used to examine human cells have masked otherwise critical biological and pharmacological insights that have greater physiologic relevance for cancer intervention.

Our lab has broad interests in modeling and understanding the influence of environmental factors on human cell metabolism, with a particular focus on hematological cancers and normal lymphocytes. We apply a highly interdisciplinary approach that combines principles of biochemistry, engineering, and molecular biology with methods in metabolomics, genome editing, and chemical genetics. Within this framework, we also integrate and develop novel tools and reagents, including a physiologic cell culture medium. Ultimately, we hope to exploit our findings for translation into new therapeutic opportunities.