Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center


The focus of the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center is elimination of breast cancer as a major cause of mortality throughout the world. A major emphasis of our center is to better understand the genomic and biochemical landscape of breast cancer in order to identify specific genes and pathways that drive breast cancer development, aggressiveness, metastasis, and therapeutic resistance. In turn this work will directly lead to improved prevention and therapeutic strategies. A firm understanding of the master controllers of normal mammary gland development is a necessary starting point to fundamentally understand how aberrations in cell survival, proliferation, metabolism, and apoptosis drive the development of cancer in the breast. Establishing pre-clinical tumor models directly from patients provide pre-clinical rationales for new therapeutic approaches that overcome resistance to endocrine therapy, HER-2 targeted therapy, and chemotherapy. We efficiently translate these findings into clinical trials that we can offer at our center and in collaborative efforts with our partner institutions. We align our breast health clinical service with these basic and translational research goals, as we provide diagnostic and breast cancer prevention services as well as personalized care for patients diagnosed at all stages of breast cancer.

Matthew Ellis Lab

Dr. Ellis has extensive experience in basic laboratory investigation, translational breast cancer research, clinical trial design, somatic genetics of cancer, and cancer proteomics. Dr. Ellis discovered the clinical relevance of HER2 mutations in breast cancer, first described an in-frame fusion in ESR as a cause of endocrine therapy resistance, and was one of the first to explore patient-derived xenografting for the study of drug resistance in breast cancer. He is also a pioneer of clinical application of preoperative endocrine therapy for the management of Stage 2 and 3 ER+ breast cancers.

Eric Chang Lab

The Chang Lab specializes on identifying activities selectively controlled by a given RAS protein. Research is focused on signal transduction medicated by RAS GTPases and their effect on controlling cell growth and tumor formation. The long-term goal of the laboratory is to translate laboratory findings into therapeutic strategies to treat RAS-driven cancers.

Suzanne Fuqua Lab

Research in the Fuqua Lab was paramount in discovering the clinical significance in breast cancer progression and resistance to hormonal therapies in estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. The lab focuses on both basic laboratory investigation and translational breast cancer research. Recently mutations in ER have been rediscovered by a number of laboratories validating her earlier seminal work. The Y537N mutation is a constitutionally active receptor that was first discovered in metastatic breast tumors by Dr. Fuqua.

Susan Hilsenbeck Lab

The Hilsenbeck Lab focuses on biostatistics and informatics collaborating on cancer-related biomedical research. The lab has considerable experience with clinical trials, prognostic and predictive factors, as well as analysis of expression array and proteomic (RPPA) data.

Michael Lewis Lab

The Lewis Lab studies normal mammary gland development and breast cancer primarily using mouse genetic models and human xenografts. The current focus is on the role of hedgehog signaling and homeobox genes in normal development, and on the characterization of breast cancer stem cells, particularly with respect to treatment resistance.

Yi Li Lab

The Li laboratory studies the molecular and cellular mechanisms of breast cancer initiation and evolution. This lab pioneered the use of the RCAS-TVA avian retroviral system to introduce cancer-driving mutations into just a few cells in the midst of normal cells in the mouse mammary gland, thus more closely mimicking human breast cancer formation where only one or a few cells mutate to initiate the cancer development. The lab uses this unique method along with genetically engineered mouse models as well as human cell lines and patient tissue samples to investigate the fundamental questions in breast cancer progression and cancer stem cells. This group also studies the impact of pregnancy, diabetes, and antipsychotic drugs on breast cancer, and explores new approaches to breast cancer prevention.

Osborne-Schiff Lab

The laboratory of Dr. Schiff and Dr. Osborne studies key oncogenic signaling pathways for targeted therapy in breast cancer and the mechanisms of drug resistance. The lab's goal is to design and translate to the clinic, strategies that better predict, prevent, or overcome resistance by using tailored drug combinations with a favorable safety profile.

Xiang Zhang Lab

The Zhang Lab investigates biological mechanisms and therapeutic strategies of breast cancer metastasis. The lab is currently investigating early-stage bone colonization of disseminated breast cancer cells and breast cancer-induced immunosuppression.