Research in the Lewis lab is focused on the genetic regulation of mammary gland development and early-stage breast cancer.

Hedgehog Signaling in Mammary Gland Development and Breast Cancer

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

Work in our lab is focused currently on understanding the role of the "Hedgehog" signal transduction network during normal mammary gland development, and whether altered hedgehog signaling may contribute to breast cancer progression.

Our Research Approach

Because the tissue interactions required for mammary gland development cannot be recapitulated fully in cell or organ culture, we have taken a predominately in vivo genetic and pharmacological approach. The lab makes use of a unique collection of genetically engineered mouse lines, powerful transplantation techniques, and small molecule hedgehog signaling agonists and antagonists to dissect the tissue compartment-specific functions of the hedgehog network at various phases of mammary gland development