Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Cell and Developmental Biology
Breast cancer is the most common and second most deadly cancer in females; however, despite intensive genomic analysis, the molecular mechanisms underlying the initial events that trigger this pervasive disease remain poorly understood. Breast cancer is believed to initiate as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a pre-invasive state where hyperplastic luminal cells apically escape the mammary epithelium to fill the lumen of the mammary duct. Progression to invasive ductal carcinoma involves basal escape of cells through the basement membrane, which promotes cell dissemination throughout the body and potentially lethal metastases. The primary focus of my postdoctoral studies in the Macara Lab is to interrogate the mechanism of luminal cell displacement from the mammary epithelium. I am employing human, mouse and 3D cell culture models to identify initiating events that lead to the tissue disruption and cell dissemination characteristic of aggressive breast cancers. The mechanistic insight yielded from these studies could inform the development of more sophisticated and targeted treatments to impede early tumorigenic events. My collaboration with my clinical mentor Dr. Ingrid Meszoely (Associate Professor of Surgery and the Clinical Director of the Vanderbilt Breast Center) will provide an invaluable clinical perspective for my work and allow me to gain expert insight into the pathologies and surgical approaches associated with human DCIS.