Joseph Sparano, M.D.

Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer and the leading cause of cancer death among women. The primary cause of death is metastasis, or spread of the cancer via the blood stream to other organs, which is incurable and associated with an average life expectancy of only 3 years. Although breast cancer death rates have declined due to screening and more effective treatments, more accurately identifying metastatic risk in order to prevent overtreatment remains a major clinical challenge. Therefore, the most important problems in breast cancer include reducing overtreatment by identifying more accurate prognostic markers and preventing spread of cancer cells in those at risk. Our program has focused on addressing these problems by studying breast cancer cell dissemination at single cell resolution using innovative experimental methods, with a focus on translating these discoveries into the clinic through multidisciplinary collaboration. In aim 1, we will confirm the association of 2 specific breast cancer tests that may more accurately identify who is at risk for recurrence, one of which identifies microscopic structures (which we call “TMEM”) that seed tumor cells into the blood and other organs. In aim 2, we will test a new drug which blocks TMEM function to see if it can block seeding of tumor cells into the blood. The project is therefore studies an entirely new approach to cancer diagnostics and treatment. The basic science studies that led to this work have been described in an award winning video entitled “Spying on Breast Cancer Metastasis” (

Location: Albert Einstein Cancer Center -
Proposal: Closing the Door on Metastasis: A New Biomarker and Treatment Paradigm
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