Instructor, Department of Medicine (Oncology)
My research interests are in the area of breast cancer biology. My specific interests are in the identification and characterization of tumor initiating cells (TIC) in breast cancer as well as the relationships between developing and metastasizing breast cancers and their microenvironment.
I am interested in elucidating the role of the Lgr5-expressing (Lgr5+) cells in breast cancer. The Leucine-rich repeat-containing G-protein-coupled receptor Lgr5, a Wnt target, has been shown to be a marker for the cells of origin in intestinal and gastric cancers as well as gliomas. We recently showed that Lgr5+ cells drive postnatal self-renewal and organogenesis in the mammary gland (Cell Reports, 2013). Lgr5+ cells are localized within the basal cell population in normal breast, and breast TICs are enriched in the same cell population. Lgr5 is likely more than just a marker for breast cancer TICs since it is a Wnt target and a receptor that potentiates Wnt/beta-catenin signaling, an important pathway in mammary stem cell biology and breast cancer. We hypothesize that Lgr5 is critical for the development of breast cancer and aim to determine if the mammary Lgr5+ cells are the cells of origin in breast carcinomas and if Lgr5+ cells are required for the growth of breast tumors.
I am interested in understanding the role of Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition (EMT) in breast cancer and more specifically the role of EMT in regulating the tumor microenvironment in the context of cancer progression and metastasis.