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Andrea Richardson, MD, PhD

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Baltimore, Maryland

Titles and Affiliations

The Peter and Judy Kovler Professor in Breast Cancer Research, Department of Pathology
Director, Pathology and Breast Pathology
Johns Hopkins Medicine National Capitol Region

Research area

Determining which breast cancer patients will respond to PARP inhibitors and identifying strategies to improve PARP inhibitor effectiveness for more patients.


BRCA-driven breast cancers have a distinctive feature associated with defects in DNA repair. This leads to frequent DNA damage events resulting in genomic instability, which makes tumors very aggressive. While this feature makes the tumor cells very mutable and thus adaptable, it also makes them vulnerable to a class of drugs called PARP inhibitors as well as other DNA damaging agents, because the cells cannot repair the DNA damage. Unfortunately, tumors develop resistance to these drugs by activating alternative DNA repair pathways. Dr. Richardson’s research is focused on understanding how defects in different DNA repair pathways cause either sensitivity or resistance to anti-cancer drugs like PARP inhibitors. This research could lead to a new way to test mutations in other rare DNA repair genes and prognostic biomarkers to predict sensitivity to particular drugs.

Progress Thus Far

Dr. Richardson and her team examined how specific mutations in the BRCA1 gene affect a tumors cell’s response to PARP inhibitor treatment. They identified a specific region of the gene that when mutated made breast cancer cells sensitive to PARP inhibitor treatment. Likewise, they showed that a gene called 53BP1 interacts with the BRCA1 gene in regulating multiple aspects of DNA repair. They are now studying a DNA repair process called translesion synthesis to understand its role in BRCA-driven tumor development and sensitivity to treatments.

What’s next

Dr. Richardson and her colleagues will continue to uncover how different BRCA1 mutations are correlated with PARP inhibitor sensitivity and delve into how 53BP1 facilitates the DNA damage bypass process. They will build on their recent findings and investigate the mechanism by which the TLS pathway interacts with BRCA genes to promote tumor development. This research will inform our understanding of how inherited mutations in DNA repair genes lead to further mutations in tumor DNA and potentially reveal new ways to target this function and hinder breast cancer formation.


Dr. Andrea L. Richardson is an Associate Professor of Pathology and Director of the Pathology Community Practice Division at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where she moved in 2015 after more than eight years on the faculty of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School in Boston. She maintains an active clinical practice on the breast pathology consultation service. Her research focus is breast cancer genetics and pathobiology. She is actively engaged in translational breast cancer research, frequently with multi-disciplinary teams. Dr. Richardson has extensive experience in tissue-based molecular assays. Her laboratory research has focused on characterizing the molecular aberrations in subtypes of breast cancer important for pathogenesis, tumor progression, and tumor response to therapy.

BCRF Investigator Since