Professional Education

  • Doctor of Philosophy, Johns Hopkins University (2017)
  • Bachelor of Science, Johns Hopkins University (2013)

All Publications

  • Targeting metastasis through the inhibition of interleukin 6 and 8 BREAST CANCER MANAGEMENT Jayatilaka, H., Phillip, J. M. 2019; 8 (1)
  • EB1 and cytoplasmic dynein mediate protrusion dynamics for efficient 3-dimensional cell migration. FASEB journal : official publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Jayatilaka, H., Giri, A., Karl, M., Aifuwa, I., Trenton, N. J., Phillip, J. M., Khatau, S., Wirtz, D. 2018; 32 (3): 1207–21


    Microtubules have long been implicated to play an integral role in metastatic disease, for which a critical step is the local invasion of tumor cells into the 3-dimensional (3D) collagen-rich stromal matrix. Here we show that cell migration of human cancer cells uses the dynamic formation of highly branched protrusions that are composed of a microtubule core surrounded by cortical actin, a cytoskeletal organization that is absent in cells on 2-dimensional (2D) substrates. Microtubule plus-end tracking protein End-binding 1 and motor protein dynein subunits light intermediate chain 2 and heavy chain 1, which do not regulate 2D migration, critically modulate 3D migration by affecting RhoA and thus regulate protrusion branching through differential assembly dynamics of microtubules. An important consequence of this observation is that the commonly used cancer drug paclitaxel is 100-fold more effective at blocking migration in a 3D matrix than on a 2D matrix. This work reveals the central role that microtubule dynamics plays in powering cell migration in a more pathologically relevant setting and suggests further testing of therapeutics targeting microtubules to mitigate migration.-Jayatilaka, H., Giri, A., Karl, M., Aifuwa, I., Trenton, N. J., Phillip, J. M., Khatau, S., Wirtz, D. EB1 and cytoplasmic dynein mediate protrusion dynamics for efficient 3-dimensional cell migration.

    View details for PubMedID 29097501

  • Tumor cell density regulates matrix metalloproteinases for enhanced migration. Oncotarget Jayatilaka, H., Umanzor, F. G., Shah, V., Meirson, T., Russo, G., Starich, B., Tyle, P., Lee, J. S., Khatau, S., Gil-Henn, H., Wirtz, D. 2018; 9 (66): 32556–69


    Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) may play a critical role in metastatic cancers, yet multiple human clinical trials targeting MMPs have surprisingly failed. Cancer cell density changes dramatically during the early growth of a primary tumor and during the early seeding steps of secondary tumors and has been implicated in playing an important role in regulating metastasis and drug resistance. This study reveals that the expression of MMPs is tightly regulated by local tumor cell density through the synergistic signaling mechanism of Interleukin 6 (IL-6) and Interleukin 8 (IL-8) via the JAK2/STAT3 complex. Local tumor cell density also plays a role in the responsiveness of cells to matrix metalloproteinases inhibitors (MMPI), such as Batimastat, Marimastat, Bryostatin I, and Cipemastat, where different migratory phenotypes are observed in low and high cell density conditions. Cell density-dependent MMP regulation can be directly targeted by the simultaneous inhibition of IL-6 and IL-8 receptors via Tocilizumab and Reparixin to significantly decrease the expression of MMPs in mouse xenograft models and decrease effective metastasis. This study reveals a new strategy to decrease MMP expression through pharmacological intervention of the cognate receptors of IL-6 and IL-8 to decrease metastatic capacity of tumor cells.

    View details for PubMedID 30220965

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6135685

  • Synergistic IL-6 and IL-8 paracrine signalling pathway infers a strategy to inhibit tumour cell migration. Nature communications Jayatilaka, H., Tyle, P., Chen, J. J., Kwak, M., Ju, J., Kim, H. J., Lee, J. S., Wu, P., Gilkes, D. M., Fan, R., Wirtz, D. 2017; 8: 15584-?


    Following uncontrolled proliferation, a subset of primary tumour cells acquires additional traits/mutations to trigger phenotypic changes that enhance migration and are hypothesized to be the initiators of metastasis. This study reveals an adaptive mechanism that harnesses synergistic paracrine signalling via IL-6/8, which is amplified by cell proliferation and cell density, to directly promote cell migration. This effect occurs in metastatic human sarcoma and carcinoma cells- but not in normal or non-metastatic cancer cells-, and likely involves the downstream signalling of WASF3 and Arp2/3. The transcriptional phenotype of high-density cells that emerges due to proliferation resembles that of low-density cells treated with a combination of IL-6/8. Simultaneous inhibition of IL-6/8 receptors decreases the expression of WASF3 and Arp2/3 in a mouse xenograft model and reduces metastasis. This study reveals a potential mechanism that promotes tumour cell migration and infers a strategy to decrease metastatic capacity of tumour cells.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/ncomms15584

    View details for PubMedID 28548090

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5458548

  • Hypoxia Selectively Enhances Integrin α5β1 Receptor Expression in Breast Cancer to Promote Metastasis. Molecular cancer research : MCR Ju, J. A., Godet, I., Ye, I. C., Byun, J., Jayatilaka, H., Lee, S. J., Xiang, L., Samanta, D., Lee, M. H., Wu, P. H., Wirtz, D., Semenza, G. L., Gilkes, D. M. 2017; 15 (6): 723–34


    Metastasis is the leading cause of breast cancer mortality. Previous studies have implicated hypoxia-induced changes in the composition and stiffness of the extracellular matrix (ECM) in the metastatic process. Therefore, the contribution of potential ECM-binding receptors in this process was explored. Using a bioinformatics approach, the expression of all integrin receptor subunits, in two independent breast cancer patient datasets, were analyzed to determine whether integrin status correlates with a validated hypoxia-inducible gene signature. Subsequently, a large panel of breast cancer cell lines was used to validate that hypoxia induces the expression of integrins that bind to collagen (ITGA1, ITGA11, ITGB1) and fibronectin (ITGA5, ITGB1). Hypoxia-inducible factors (HIF-1 and HIF-2) are directly required for ITGA5 induction under hypoxic conditions, which leads to enhanced migration and invasion of single cells within a multicellular 3D tumor spheroid but did not affect migration in a 2D microenvironment. ITGB1 expression requires HIF-1α, but not HIF-2α, for hypoxic induction in breast cancer cells. ITGA5 (α5 subunit) is required for metastasis to lymph nodes and lungs in breast cancer models, and high ITGA5 expression in clinical biopsies is associated with an increased risk of mortality.Implications: These results reveal that targeting ITGA5 using inhibitors that are currently under consideration in clinical trials may be beneficial for patients with hypoxic tumors. Mol Cancer Res; 15(6); 723-34. ©2017 AACR.

    View details for DOI 10.1158/1541-7786.MCR-16-0338

    View details for PubMedID 28213554

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5510543

  • The Arp2/3 complex mediates multigeneration dendritic protrusions for efficient 3-dimensional cancer cell migration FASEB JOURNAL Giri, A., Bajpai, S., Trenton, N., Jayatilaka, H., Longmore, G. D., Wirtz, D. 2013; 27 (10): 4089-4099


    Arp2/3 is a protein complex that nucleates actin filament assembly in the lamellipodium in adherent cells crawling on planar 2-dimensional (2D) substrates. However, in physiopathological situations, cell migration typically occurs within a 3-dimensional (3D) environment, and little is known about the role of Arp2/3 and associated proteins in 3D cell migration. Using time resolved live-cell imaging and HT1080, a fibrosarcoma cell line commonly used to study cell migration, we find that the Arp2/3 complex and associated proteins N-WASP, WAVE1, cortactin, and Cdc42 regulate 3D cell migration. We report that this regulation is caused by formation of multigeneration dendritic protrusions, which mediate traction forces on the surrounding matrix and effective cell migration. The primary protrusions emanating directly from the cell body and prolonging the nucleus forms independent of Arp2/3 and dependent on focal adhesion proteins FAK, talin, and p130Cas. The Arp2/3 complex, N-WASP, WAVE1, cortactin, and Cdc42 regulate the secondary protrusions branching off from the primary protrusions. In 3D matrices, fibrosarcoma cells as well as migrating breast, pancreatic, and prostate cancer cells do not display lamellipodial structures. This study characterizes the unique topology of protrusions made by cells in a 3D matrix and show that these dendritic protrusions play a critical role in 3D cell motility and matrix deformation. The relative contribution of these proteins to 3D migration is significantly different from their role in 2D migration.

    View details for DOI 10.1096/fj.12-224352

    View details for Web of Science ID 000329747100021

    View details for PubMedID 23796785

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4046187