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Michelle C. Mendoza

Michelle C. Mendoza, PhD

Languages spoken: English

Academic Information

Departments Primary - Oncological Sciences

Research Interests

  • Cancer Biology
  • Cell Signaling
  • Cell Migration
  • Actin Cytoskeleton Dynamics
  • Metastasis

Dr. Mendoza received her B.S. (Highest Honors) in Animal Bioscience from Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pennsylvania in 2000. She conducted her graduate work at the University of California, San Diego with Dr. Richard A. Firtel, studying signal transduction and cell migration using the model organism Dictyostelium discoidem. She received her PhD in Biomedical Science from UCSD in 2005. She then carried out postdoctoral training with cancer cell signaling expert Dr. John Blenis (funding from Susan G. Komen) and computer vision pioneer Dr. Gaudenz Danuser (K01 funding from the NCI) in the Department of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School. She studied the molecular signals that control the actin cytoskeleton during cell movement. In 2013, Dr. Mendoza started her independent research program at the University of California, San Francisco, in the Department of Cell and Tissue Biology. In 2015, Dr. Mendoza moved her lab to join the faculty of the Department of Oncological Sciences, within the University of Utah, School of Medicine and the Huntsman Cancer Institute. Here, she expanded her research program to address the progression and invasion of early lung tumors. She is currently Assistant Professor in Oncological Sciences. She is Adjunct faculty in the Department of Bioengineering and a member of the Cancer Center’s Cell Response and Regulation (CRR) Program and the Lung Cancer Center.

Research: The Mendoza lab mission is to help patients with lung cancer and other solid tumors through the discovery of fundamental mechanisms of cancer progression. The lab studies the biochemical and mechanical signaling of cell migration and lung cancer progression. The lab utilizes biochemistry, quantitative imaging, mouse models, and computational modeling to address: 1) cytoskeletal dynamics during motility: How do signaling pathways, such as the oncogenic RAS/ERK pathway, control the coordinated cytoskeletal and adhesion dynamics that make cells move? 2) early tumor cancer progression: How do changes in extracellular matrix and physical properties of the lung contribute to the progression of early tumors to cancer? 3) lung cancer cell invasion: What signals and processes do lung cancer cells employ to spread through their altered tumor microenvironment and disseminate?

Current Administrative Positions: Chair, Rising Stars Committee for the Department of Oncological Sciences. PED Oversight Committee and PED Liason for CRR. Member, Pathmaker Program Oversight Committee, HCI and Oncological Sciences Seminar Series Committees, and University of Utah Cell Imaging Core Oversight Committee.

Teaching: Dr. Mendoza teaches and examines the first year Molecular Biology graduate students. She also teaches Cancer Invasion and Metastasis in the Department of Oncological Sciences Cancer Biology course and Ethical Quantitative Imaging Approaches in the Medical School’s Light Microscopy and Digital Imaging Course. She is mentoring 1 postdoctoral fellow, 3 PhD students, and an undergraduate student.

Service: Dr. Mendoza is an ad hoc reviewer for multiple peer-reviewed scientific journals, including Science Signaling, Cell Reports, Journal of Cell Biology, and Oncogene. She is an ad hoc reviewer on serves on R21 Special Emphasis Panels and the Cell Signaling and Regulatory Systems study sections at NIH.

Research Statement

Cancer spread, or metastasis, involves improper cell movement. My research focuses on determining - at the mechanistic level - how a cell normally regulates the processes of cell movement and how this goes awry during cancer dissemination.

Education History

Postdoctoral Fellowship Harvard Medical School
Postdoctoral Fellow
University of California, San Diego
Undergraduate Pennsylvania State University

Selected Publications

Journal Article

  1. Carney KR, Khan AM, Stam S, Samson SC, Mittal N, Han SJ, Bidone TC, and Mendoza MC (2023). Nascent adhesions shorten the period of lamellipodium protrusion through the Brownian ratchet mechanism. Mol Biol Cell, Sep 6:mbcE23080314.
  2. Zitnay RG, Herron M, Carney KR, Potter S, Emerson LL, Weiss JA, Mendoza MC (2022). Mechanics of lung cancer: A finite element model shows strain amplification during early tumorigenesis. Plos Computational Biology, 18(10), e1010153.
  3. Ingram K, Samson SC, Zewdu R, Zitnay RG, Snyder EL, Mendoza MC (2021). NKX2-1 controls lung cancer progression by inducing DUSP6 to dampen ERK activity. Oncogene, 41(2), 293-300. (Read full article)
  4. Zewdu R, Mehrabad EM, Ingram K, Fang P, Gillis KL, Camolotto SA, Orstad G, Jones A, Mendoza MC, Spike BT, Snyder EL (2021). An NKX2-1/ERK/WNT feedback loop modulates gastric identity and response to targeted therapy in lung adenocarcinoma. Elife, 10. (Read full article)
  5. Samson SC, Elliott A, Mueller BD, Kim Y, Carney KR, Bergman JP, Blenis J, Mendoza MC (2019). p90 ribosomal S6 kinase (RSK) phosphorylates myosin phosphatase and thereby controls edge dynamics during cell migration. J Biol Chem, 294(28), 10846-10862. (Read full article)
  6. Kircher DA, Trombetti KA, Silvis MR, Parkman GL, Fischer GM, Angel SN, Stehn CM, Strain SC, Grossmann AH, Duffy KL, Boucher KM, McMahon M, Davies MA, Mendoza MC, VanBrocklin MW, Holmen SL (2019). AKT1E17K Activates Focal Adhesion Kinase and Promotes Melanoma Brain Metastasis. Mol Cancer Res, 17(9), 1787-1800. (Read full article)
  7. Mendoza MC, Vilela M, Juarez JE, Blenis J, and Danuser G (2015). ERK reinfoces actin polymerization to power persistent edge protrusion during motility. Sci Signal, 8(377), ra47.
  8. Er EE, Mendoza MC, Mackey AM, Rameh LE, Blenis J (2013). AKT facilitates EGFR trafficking and degradation by phosphorylating and activating PIKfyve. Sci Signal, 6(279), ra45.
  9. Zhang W, Mendoza MC, Pei X, Ilter D, Mahoney SJ, Zhang Y, Ma D, Blenis J, Wang Y (2012). Down-regulation of CMTM8 induces epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition-like changes via c-MET/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) signaling. J Biol Chem, 287(15), 11850-8.
  10. Mendoza MC, Er EE, Zhang W, Ballif BA, Elliott HL, Danuser G, Blenis J (2011). ERK-MAPK drives lamellipodia protrusion by activating the WAVE2 regulatory complex. Mol Cell, 41(6), 661-71.
  11. Abe Y, Yoon SO, Kubota K, Mendoza MC, Gygi SP, Blenis J (2009). p90 ribosomal S6 kinase and p70 ribosomal S6 kinase link phosphorylation of the eukaryotic chaperonin containing TCP-1 to growth factor, insulin, and nutrient signaling. J Biol Chem, 284(22), 14939-48. (Read full article)


  1. Samson SC, Khan AM, Mendoza MC (2022). ERK signaling for cell migration and invasion. [Review]. Front Mol Biosci, 9, 998475. (Read full article)
  2. Mendoza MC (2013). Phosphoregulation of the WAVE regulatory complex and signal integration. [Review]. Semin Cell Dev Biol, 24(4), 272-9.
  3. Mendoza MC, Er EE, Blenis J (2011). The Ras-ERK and PI3K-mTOR pathways: cross-talk and compensation. [Review]. Trends Biochem Sci, 36(6), 320-8.

Book Chapter

  1. Mendoza MC, Besson S, Danuser G (2012). Quantitative fluorescent speckle microscopy (QFSM) to measure actin dynamics. In Curr Protoc Cytom (Chapter 2, pp. Unit2.18). United States. (Read full article)
  2. Mendoza MC, Er EE, Blenis J (2010). ERK-MAP Kinase signaling in the cytoplasm. In Methods Mol Biol (661, pp. 185-203). United States. (Read full article)