The Cancer Biology Laboratory works to discover the genetic program that underlies the normal developmental processes that build a mammary gland and control its function. These genes are targets for mutation or dysregulation during carcinogenesis, perturbing the normal process they control to influence the phenotype of the resulting cancer.
These genes provide excellent candidates for development as new therapeutic targets or prognostic markers. Examples include the recent discovery of the effect of the transcription factor Elf5 on progenitor cell fate decisions during mammary development. Elf5 greatly influences aspects of breast cancer phenotype, such as sensitivity to estrogens, development of antiestrogen resistance, molecular subtype, epithelial to mesenchymal transition and metastatic activity.
Other projects within the laboratory are concerned with the relative contributions of oncogenic insult and cell of origin to tumour phenotype, the role of pathogen activated molecular pattern receptors in mammary development and a long-term interest in the regulation of mammary development and function by prolactin.