Knight Cancer Pilot Project Awardees: Megan Troxell, M.D., Ph.D. and Tania Vu, Ph.D.

Megan Troxell, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor, Anatomic Pathology and Tania Vu, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Biomedical Engineering

Jointly funded by Knight Cancer Institute Cancer and OCSSB

Title: "Characterization of PI3K Phosphopathway Dysregulation in Breast Neoplasia using Advanced Multicolor Spectral Imaging Technology"

Abstract: Development of cancer is a multi-step process, resulting from a series of cellular changes that result in uncontrolled growth of the malignant cancer cells. More and more of the genetic mutations and other cellular changes contributing to cancer development have been discovered, opening up new avenues for cancer therapy, especially as targeted drugs to turn ‘off’ the mutations are developed. However, the links between gene mutation, malignant cells, and successful targeted cancer therapy are not fully understood. Our proposed project is the first to directly explore
correlation between genetic mutations (PIK3CA) in breast precancers/cancer, and the activation of related cellular pathways in human breast tissue. We will visualize pathway activation using
advanced imaging technology that is quantitative and allows visualization of multiple signals in the same tissue. Thus, our study should contribute important biomarker development toward selecting patients whose cancers would benefit from treatment with PI3K target therapy. There are already many drugs targeting this pathway in development or in early phase clinical trials. As applied specifically to precancerous breast lesions, this project also opens up an avenue for future targeted chemoprevention of breast cancer for those women with high-risk breast lesions and an activated pathway signature. This pilot project should provide key preliminary data for further funding from agencies such as Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Avon, DOD, and the NCI.

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