Each year over 2.1 million new cases of breast cancer occur among women worldwide and 600,000 women die from this disease. In most cases, metastasis is the cause of death. Indeed, while 98% of patients survive 5 years or more after being diagnosed with a localized (confined to the primary site) breast cancer, this number drops to 15-25% if the cancer has metastasized to distant organs. Curing metastatic breast cancer clearly represents an unmet medical need.
Although progress has been made in broadly understanding breast tumor biology and progression to metastases, most of the relevant molecules and pathways remain undefined. The thread connecting the research in my lab is tumor heterogeneity. We assess mechanisms that influence normal and neoplastic breast stem cells, metastasis, and resistance to targeted therapies at the molecular, cellular, and whole organism levels considering both cell autonomous and non-cell autonomous mechanisms. We have also developed a personalized breast cancer treatment program.