Our Research Focus: Breast Cancer and Drug Resistance 

Breast cancer is a complex disease with multiple subtypes and biochemical characteristics. Thus, one of the major challenges for successful treatment in the clinic has been lack of reliable molecular predictors. Following standard treatment option for localized breast cancer (surgery with or without radiation), systemic adjuvant therapies (chemotherapy, endocrine therapy or biologic therapy) are used to control tumor growth and improve survival. However, each treatment type can change the molecular makeup of any remaining tumor cells. While some of the remaining tumor cells will die during treatment, some others might be able to escape the drug induced cell death by reprogramming its biomolecules. In our lab, we study how breast cancer cells respond to specific drugs and how we can use this information to prevent the development of drug resistance. Using a systems biology approach, through collaboration with Dr. Willam Baumann, PhD (Virginia Tech, Blacksburg), we use a dynamic mathematical model that captures key cellular adaptations to targeted therapies over time scales (of days and months). Such an approach will help optimize the sequencing and timing of therapies and avoid drug resistance.