Asset Publisher

angle-left Axel Thomson, PhD

Scientist, RI-MUHC, Glen site

Cancer Research Program

Division of Urology, Department of Surgery



Prostate Cancer • prostate development • tumor microenvironment • stromal-epithelial interactions

Research Focus

My research focuses on how the prostate forms during embryonic life and we have identified some of the genes that control how the organ grows. During organ formation, there are key signals that pass between two different cell types, stromal and epithelial cells, and we have focused upon the signals made by the stromal cells which control the epithelial cells. Prostate cancer is a significant health issue and my work has focused upon the role of cell-cell interactions in prostate cancer and development. It has recently emerged that there are similar stromal to epithelial signals controlling tumor cells in cancer. Within tumors, there are stromal cells which exert significant effects upon the cancer cells, and the stromal cells affect tumor formation, growth and disease progression. Recently, we found that we can use the signals made by the stromal cells during prostate formation to slow down prostate tumor growth, via prostate cancer stromal cells. This was a new and innovative way to reduce tumor growth, and we are investigating this further.

Selected Publications

  • Orr, B., O. C. Grace, P. Brown, A. C.P. Riddick, G. D. Stewart, O. E. Franco, S. W. Hayward, and Thomson, A. A. (2013). Reduction of pro-tumourigenic activity of prostate cancer associated fibroblasts using Dlk1 or SCUBE1. Disease Models and Mechanisms. 6 (2):530-536, doi: 10.1242/dmm.010355

  • Alexander Henke, Cathal O Grace, George R Ashley, Richard A Anderson, and A. A Thomson. (2012). Stromal expression of Decorin, Semaphorin6D, SPARC, Sprouty1 and Tsukushi in developing prostate and decreased levels of Decorin in prostate cancer. PLoS ONE 7(8): e42516. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0042516

  • Orr, B., Riddick, A. C. P., Stewart, G, Anderson, R. A., Franco, O., Hayward, S. W., and Thomson, A. A. (2012). Identification of stromally expressed molecules in the prostate by Tag profiling of cancer-associated fibroblasts, normal fibroblasts and fetal prostate. Oncogene. 31:1130-1142

  • Orr, B., Vanpoucke, G., Grace, O. C. Smith, L, Anderson, R. A., Riddick, A. C. P., Franco, O., Hayward, S. W., and Thomson, A. A. (2011). Expression of Pleiotrophin in the prostate is androgen regulated and it functions as an autocrine regulator of mesenchyme and cancer associated fibroblasts and as a paracrine regulator of epithelia. Prostate. 71:305-317

  • Ashley, G. R, Grace, O. C., Vanpoucke, G and Thomson, A. A. (2010). Identification of EphrinB1 expression in prostatic mesenchyme and a role for EphB-EphrinB signaling in prostate development. Differentiation. 80: 89-98