My research focuses on the molecular drivers of triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). In contrast to the other receptor-driven forms of breast cancer, TNBC disproportionately affects younger women and minority populations and has the poorest outcomes. Currently, there are no targeted therapies for this heterogeneous disease, but efforts by our lab and others have identified some molecular features shared by different forms of TNBC. For instance, the majority of TNBC tumors contain missense mutations in the p53 tumor suppressor gene, leading to the production of abnormal proteins that have been shown to confer some oncogenic gain of function properties to their host cells, including increased chemoresistance and cell motility. My goal is to investigate the feasibility of targeting this altered p53 state and other pathways of interest in TNBC through the use of tumor-derived cell lines and analysis of clinical samples.
In the clinic, I have had the privilege of meeting patients afflicted with breast cancer, and have gained a firsthand appreciation for the success of targeted therapies in combating some forms of the disease and the urgent need to develop such interventions to help patients with TNBC. In addition, my clinical mentor and her colleagues have been involved in the development of several ongoing clinical trials, including some based on basic science data generated in my lab. Witnessing the implementation of these trials has been a valuable experience for me, and this practical knowledge combined with my attendance at clinical seminars will help shape my future research questions.