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Vera M. Todd

Graduate Student, Cancer Biology

I am in the Graduate Program in Cancer Biology and a student in Dr. Rachelle Johnson’s lab. The Johnson lab studies breast cancer bone metastasis with a particular emphasis on tumor dormancy mechanisms. My project is aimed at understanding whether primary tumor hypoxia drives dissemination of breast cancer cells to the bone, and whether hypoxic conditions within the bone push cell into, or out of, a dormant state.

On the clinical side, I am interested in the treatment choices and follow up strategies for cancer patients that are diagnosed with cancers that are known to frequently metastasize to bone, such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, and renal cell carcinoma. My clinical mentor, Dr. David Chism, was a genitourinary medical oncologist here at Vanderbilt till 2018. Many of his patients are living with stable metastatic renal or bladder cancer, which speaks volumes to how much the treatment options have improved and diversified in recent years. Translationally, my hope is that my research will shed light on what primary tumor characteristics predict the development of bone lesions down the line in patients that are in remission or living with stable disease.