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Erica Tross

Graduate Student, Cell and Developmental Biology

Dr. Ian Macara (Thesis)
Dr. Brent Rexer (Clinical)


I am a graduate student in the department of cell and developmental biology! I work in the lab of Dr. Ian Macara where we study different aspects of the mammary gland including cell polarity and stem cell behavior. I am working on isolating two recently identified stem cell populations in the mammary gland, s-SHIP-GFP+ cells  and ProCR+ cells . I will sort the mammary stem cells from primary mammary epithelial cells and perform RNA sequencing to analyze their gene expression profiles. Important questions about these cell populations include, what is their relationship to one another and to non-stem myoepithelial cell populations and what are the gene networks and signatures that promote ‘stemness’ and maintain cell multipotency? The ability to isolate mammary stem cell populations using specific markers allows the opportunity to study and determine each of the individual population’s specific gene signatures. This could potentially allow us to resolve gene(s) expressed specifically in all mammary stem cells and determine the stem cell hierarchy. This will also help to begin studies on how and what types of perturbations of these stem cells could result in the onset of breast cancer.


My clinical mentor is Dr. Brent Rexer who looks at mechanisms of resistance to targeted therapies in cancer and  wants to identify potential therapies to overcome that resistance. He sees patients in the clinic who are at all stages of their fight against breast cancer. I would like to work with Dr. Rexer on making a side project that I am working on more translational. This includes understanding resistance of the EGF receptor and the downstream factors that may contribute to the resistance.