Positions

Professor
Breast Center - Lewis
Baylor College of Medicine
Houston, TX, US
Member
Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center
Baylor College of Medicine
Houston, Texas, United States

Education

Post-Doctoral Fellowship at University Of Colorado Health Sciences Center
PhD from University Of California, Santa Cruz
Post-Doctoral Fellowship at University Of California, Santa Cruz
BS from College Of William & Mary
Biology

Professional Statement

Our laboratory studies normal mammary gland development and breast cancer primarily using mouse genetic models and human xenografts. Our 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.

Early detection of breast cancer is widely recognized as a key to effective treatment, yet little is known about the progression from a normal to a cancerous state. In fact, one of the limiting factors in understanding breast cancer is our lack of knowledge about how the breast develops normally. Without a more complete understanding of the normal mammary gland, particularly normal stem and progenitor cells, early detection of breast cancer will continue to be difficult, and discovery of new therapeutic agents will be hindered significantly.

In the normal breast, growth and maintenance of breast tissue depends on communication between cells in the ducts (the epithelium) and in the surrounding “stroma”. Disruption of these cell-cell interactions is a hallmark of the transition from a normal to a neoplastic state, and contributes to breast cancer progression. One of the primary signaling networks regulating these interactions is the “hedgehog” network. Of particular interest to us is the fact that homeobox genes, a large group of master developmental regulators, frequently mediate the downstream effects of active hedgehog signaling. We are exploring the functional relationships between hedgehog network and homeobox genes in our work.

Our laboratory also studies the role of “cancer stem cells” in tumor growth and in treatment resistance. Our data suggest that these cells may, by their nature, be intrinsically resistant to traditional breast cancer therapeutics, including chemotherapy. Our goal is to understand these cells in detail, and to discover novel therapeutics that can eliminate these cells from breast cancer in patients.