Welcome to the Fleming Lab

Research Interests:

The overall goal of our lab is to characterize the role of the tissue microenvironment on the behavior and function of normal cells, as well as determine its role in the development and progression of disease.   

Much of the work to date has targeted issues relevant to breast cancer, but this particular area of research can directly be applied to, and benefit, any type of cellular, molecular, animal science, biochemical or biomedical research.

One major focus of our lab is to identify the mechanisms involved in the development of aggressive, metastatic breast cancer in premenopausal African-American women. Premenopausal African-American women suffer disproportionately from breast cancer mortality compared to Caucasian-American women.  Both social and biological mechanisms are thought to be contributory, but due to their confounding complexity, the differences remain poorly understood.  Multiple aspects of tumor aggressiveness have been identified in the African-American population, including a high proportion of basal-like tumors, characterized by a triple-negative phenotype.  Currently, no effective molecular therapies exist for this highly aggressive type of cancer and patient survival is poor.  

The majority of studies investigating differences in breast cancer between African- and Caucasian-American women examine the resultant tumor.  Our work challenges the current research by focusing not on the resultant tumor, but on the early initiating/promoting factors from the microenvironment, and how these factors lead to differences in tumor phenotype. It is imperative to study the premalignant state in order to ascertain the driving force of the resultant cancer phenotype.   Our approach uses both observation and experimental types of data to integrate the burgeoning field of tumor microenvironment with health disparities research

The second main focus of our lab is to understand the mechanisms mammary development and lactation.  Specifically, how diet and environmental factors can influence mammary outgrowth, milk composition, and ultimately newborn health.  In January of 2012, the leaders in the field of mammary gland biology held a conference entitled “Lactation and Milk: Defining and refining the critical questions” at the University of Colorado’s School of Medicine. The mission was to identify unresolved questions and set future goals for research into human milk composition, mammary development, lactation, and infant nutrition.  Our research directly tackles molecular aspects of the critical points raised at this meeting including: (1) How do hormones, engagement with the extracellular matrix, inter and intra-signaling molecules, and metabolism coordinately program the mammary gland for growth and lactation and (2) What are the mechanisms by which maternal nutrition, environmental factors, disease, and metabolic status affect milk composition.  For example, we are currently investigating the role of environmental toxicants on mammary function. 

These projects listed on this website are by no means the entirety of our current research.  We have many exciting studies ongoing, but you will have to wait for the published manuscripts to get all the details.

Contact Information:

Jodie M. Fleming, Ph.D.

Email:  jodie.fleming@nccu.edu
Phone:  919-530-6216
Fax:  919-530-7773

North Carolina Central University
1801 Fayetteville St.
MTSC RM 2447
Durham NC 27707

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