More than 40,000 American women die of breast cancer each year. One out of every eight women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. In 70% of these women, estrogen and estrogen receptor α (ERα) are key players in breast cancer diseases. Keeping this endocrine signaling function low by endocrine therapy is the best treatment right now. Yet, after 5 years, hormonal treatment stops working in more than 30% of these patients and the disease returns. Because hormone resistance is still a challenge, there are few effective therapies for these patients. We plan to study estrogen and ERα related to hormone resistance.
ERα binds DNA elements that regulate gene expression. These elements are very important in cancer development and progression. When these elements lose control, breast cancer becomes resistant to hormones. Thus, if we can find ways to understand and correct these elements in hormone resistant cells, we can find cures for ERα-positive breast cancers. The goal of this project is to understand how ERα controls DNA elements. We will identify markers to measure the presence and progression of breast cancer. Our research results may lead to new therapies that target this disease. Discoveries from this project may help with treating other cancers and may be useful for other research fields.