The overarching objective of our research program is to probe key questions in biological chemistry using the tools of the organic chemist. Currently, a major focus of effort in our program is the use of carbohydrate-functionalized dendrimers to study protein-carbohydrate interactions. Dendrimers are ideal frameworks for the study of multivalent protein-carbohydrate interactions because they are three-dimensionally well defined (compared to linear polymers) and are optimally sized for polyvalent binding to lectins. Most lectins have multiple carbohydrate binding sites that are relatively distant from one another (3-7 nm), so a nanometer-sized framework is required if more than one binding site per lectin is to be targeted.
One major area of emphasis for this research is the study the role of protein-carbohydrate interactions in cancer metastasis. Many reports suggest that cell surface carbohydrates serve a critical function in malignant transformation and metastasis, and so the development of artificial carbohydrate arrays that can aptly mimic and interfere with metastasis is also critical. Our goal is to advance fundamental knowledge regarding the role of protein-carbohydrate and carbohydrate-carbohydrate interactions in the metastatic spread of cancer. Concurrently, new therapeutic agents to arrest cancer metastasis may also emerge.