Abeloff V Scholar*
In spite of tremendous advances in the treatment of estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer using therapies directed against the estrogen receptor (ER), patients frequently develop resistance to these therapies. These resistant tumors remain the most common cause of breast cancer death, yet mechanisms by which this resistance develops are poorly understood. Much more work is required to fully understand all of the clinically relevant resistance mechanisms in breast cancer patients treated with ER-directed therapies. Moreover, there is an urgent need to develop new therapies for patients who no longer respond to these therapies. The goal of this project is to improve our understanding of resistant ER+ breast cancer by using cutting-edge genomic technology to directly characterize tumor samples from patients who have developed resistant breast cancer, as well as systematic pre-clinical approaches in breast cancer cell lines. First, we will use next-generation sequencing technology to comprehensively characterize the genomic and molecular alterations from breast tumor samples obtained from 50 patients who have developed resistance to the drug fulvestrant, an FDA-approved therapy that directly targets the estrogen receptor. At the same time, we will conduct a systematic pre-clinical study in breast cancer cell lines to identify genes that might contribute to resistance to fulvestrant. Once completed, this work should help us understand how ER+ breast cancers develop resistance to ER-targeted therapies, as well as identify new targets and therapeutic strategies in resistant breast cancer.