Researcher Stories

Molecular Genetics of Breast Cancer

Molecular Genetics of Breast Cancer Initiation and Progression

Kornelia Polyak, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine, Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Breast cancer is a complex disease associated with changes in the molecular profile of multiple cellular pathways involving cell growth and proliferation. In order to prevent and effectively treat breast cancer, it is essential to identify the genes that contribute to the initiation of breast tumorigenesis.

kornelia polyak 17 jm 4161 copy

kornelia polyak 17 jm 4161 copy

Kornelia Polyak, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine, Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Kornelia Polyak, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine, Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and her team are evaluating the molecular profiles of cancerous breast tissue with the goal of improving clinical care for breast cancer patients. Dr. Polyak and her group have developed new, cutting-edge technologies that allow for the detailed molecular profiling of isolated cells from human tissue, including both normal and breast cancer tissue. Using this method, the team has identified genetic and epigenetic changes in individual cell types that occur during disease progression. Identifying specific genetic changes associated with disease progression will enable new clinical tools for assessing patient risk for disease progression as well as the development of new targeted therapies for breast cancer prevention and treatment.

The fresh human breast tumor samples that we have been receiving from NDRI are essential for our studies of sorted cell populations or single cells, and also for deriving xenografts from these cases.”   

This work is an excellent example of how patient samples are essential for identifying novel targets that will advance the diagnostics and treatment of cancer.

Recent Publications

Gil Del Alcazar, C.R., Huh, S.J., Ekram, M.B., Trinh, A., Liu, L.L., Beca, F., Zi, X., Kwak, M., Bergholtz, H., Su, Y., Ding, L., Russnes, H.G., Richardson, A.L., Babski, K., Kim, E.M.H., McDonnell III, C.H., Wagner, J., Rowberry, R., Freeman, G.J., Dillon, D., Sorlie, T., Coussens, L.M., Garber, J.E., Fan, R., Bobolis, K., Allred, D.C., Jeong, J., Park, S.Y., Michor, F., Polyak, K. (2017) Immune escape in breast cancer during in situ to invasive carcinoma transition. Cancer Disc.  7:1098-1115. PMCID: PMC5628128.

Marusyk, A., Tabassum, D.P., Janiszewska, M., Place, A.E., Trinh, A., Rozhok, A.I., Pyne, S., Guerrierro, J.L., Shu, S., Ekram, M., Ishkin, A., Cahill, D.P., Nikolsky, Y., Chan, T.A., Rimawi, M.F., Hilsenbeck, S., Schiff, R., Kent, C., Osborne, K.C., Letai, A., Polyak, K. (2016) Spatial proximity to fibroblasts impacts molecular features and therapeutic sensitivity of breast cancer cells influencing clinical outcomes. Cancer Res. 76:6495-6506. PMCID: PMC5344673.


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