Funded through the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund by the Marks Family in honor of Lisa Curtis
The human body is estimated to remove over a billion cells every day, a process achieved by a relatively rare population of cells called phagocytes. When a phagocyte ingests a dying cell, it essentially doubles its content (analogous to a neighbor moving into your house). Yet, phagocytes such as macrophages often ingest multiple targets in quick succession. How these phagocytes maintain their homeostasis and manage the excess influx of dead cell cargo, are interesting scientific problems that are largely unexplored. This is an important topic in understanding cancer development broadly, and the development of cancer therapies specifically, because the clearance of cancer cells directly establishes an environment for the tumor to grow. Exciting avenues of therapy involve trying to either break down this tumor-promoting environment or by increasing the immune response against the tumor. These approaches show much promise; however, they often only work in specific patient populations. We believe that to develop a more effective therapy, we must understand the underlying processes that link clearance of cancer cells to generating an anti-cancer immune response. To this end, my lab focuses on studying phagocytes that are prevalent in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC), how tumor cell clearance contributes to TNBC progression, and discovering new ways to target these cells to treat TNBC.