Valeri Vasioukhin

Appointments and Affiliations

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Human Biology Division
Full Member
University of Washington
School of Medicine
Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine
Affiliate Associate Professor
Professional Headshot of Valeri  Vasioukhin

Mailing Address

1100 Fairview Ave. N. C3-168
Seattle, Washington 98109-1024
United States


Phone: (206) 667-1710
Fax: (206) 667-6524


Ph.D., Institute of Cytology, Academy of Sciences, USSR, and University of Geneva, Switzerland, Cell Biology, 1992.
Postdoc with Dr. Elaine Fuchs, University of Chicago, 1997-2001.
Postdoc with Dr. Angela Tyner, University of Illinois at Chicago, 1993-1996.

Research Interests

Cell polarity and cell adhesion in mammalian development and cancer.

Our laboratory studies the mechanisms and significance of cell polarity and cell adhesion in normal mammalian development and cancer. In addition, we have a significant interest in the mechanisms responsible for initiation and progression of human prostate cancer. We believe that it is important to study cells in their normal microenvironment. Thus, our major model system is mouse, and our primary approach is generation and characterization of genetically modified mice. While this approach takes a lot of time and consumes a significant part of our grant money, we believe that it provides us with information that is most relevant to understanding the critical causal events that are responsible for human diseases. Our secondary approach is to use cells in culture to model the phenotypes that we see in our mutant mice and dissect the molecular mechanisms responsible for these phenotypes. This combination of in vivo genetic and ex vivo cell biology approaches has enabled us to identify and analyze the causal events responsible for several cancer types and a variety of developmental disorders. In the course of these studies, we have uncovered novel mechanisms responsible for tumor initiation and metastasis in prostate and skin cancer. We also found the mechanisms responsible for the number of developmental disorders including periventricular heterotopia, hydrocephalus, lung emphysema, kidney cysts and placental malformations. These studies resulted in research papers in such journals as Science, Science Signaling, Cancer Cell, Dev Cell, Genes Dev, PNAS, J Cell Biol, Mol Cell Biol, J Cell Science and many others. Presently, our laboratory is pursuing research in three major directions:

1. We are trying to understand how stem and progenitor cells use intercellular adhesion structures to obtain information about their cellular microenvironment and translate this information into critical decisions concerning cell proliferation, differentiation and programmed cell death. These studies concentrate on the role and mechanisms of cell-cell adhesion structures called Adherens Junctions and the protein α-catenin. We discovered that α-catenin functions as a tumor suppressor in squamous cell carcinoma, and we have begun to identify the mechanisms responsible for this function.
2. We are studying the mechanisms responsible for asymmetric cell division of stem and progenitor cells that help to ensure both the maintenance of pluripotent stem cell population and normal cell differentiation. We believe that the failure of these mechanisms is ultimately responsible for cancer. These studies concentrate on the role and mechanisms of basolateral cell polarity proteins Lgl1, Lgl2 and Dlg5. We determined that Lgls and Dlg5 are responsible for several developmental disorders, and we made significant advances in understanding the mechanisms of their function.
3. We are studying the causal mechanisms responsible for initiation and progression of human prostate cancer. To determine causality, we use mice to model the genetic and epigenetic changes identified in human prostate tumors. When the causal event is identified, we analyze the cellular and molecular mechanisms responsible. These studies concentrate on the role and mechanisms of cell-surface serine protease Hepsin and the ETS-family transcription factor ERG. We found that hepsin drives prostate cancer progression and metastasis and ERG is involved in long-term cancer initiation. We made significant progress in understanding the molecular mechanisms of Hepsin and ERG in prostate cancer. In addition, we developed and characterized a small molecule Hepsin inhibitor, which is now undergoing an animal prostate-cancer trial.


American Association for Cancer Research
American Society for Cell Biology

Honors and Awards

2002-2004, V Scholar Award, The V Foundation for Cancer Research, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
1985-1985, Red Diploma, Ministry of higher education of the USSR, Kuibyshev University
2002-present, Member, Cell biology faculty, Faculty of 1000 (

Previous Positions

2001-2006, Assistant Member, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Human Biology
1997-2001, Research Associate, University of Chicago, (Professor Elaine Fuchs)
1993-1997, Post-doctoral Fellow, University of Illinois at Chicago, (Professor Angela Tyner)


Animal models of cancer development and metastasis, Patent Number: Provisional Patent Application, 2004, Institution, United States of America.
Method for diagnosing cancers, Patent Number: 5952170, 1999, Industry, United States of America.


  • National Institutes of Health (NIH): R01 CA102365 Invasion and Metastasis in Prostate Cancer, 2004 to 2014.
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH): R01 CA098161 Cell-cell adhesion and signal transduction, 2003 to 2013.


Recent Publications

Lien W-H, Stepniak E, Vasioukhin VI.  2008.  Dissecting the role of cadherin-catenin proteins in mammalian epidermis.. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 105(40):15225-6.

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