Associate Professor, Cell Biology and Oncology
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Seeking to understand the process of metastasis and identify strategies to stop the spread of breast cancer
Laboratory studies are conducted to characterize the processes that promote or suppress tumor growth and cancer cell survival during the metastatic process.
These studies will inform the development of novel strategies to improve outcomes for women with metastatic breast cancer.
Breast cancer is most dangerous for patients when it has spread to distant organs, a process referred to as metastasis. This process requires breast epithelial cells to release their connections to their neighbors, migrate through local tissues, travel through the blood stream, and then establish new tumors in distant organs.
Dr. Ewald and his team believe that understanding how a cancer cell learns to accomplish these diverse tasks will lead to new ways to stop it. The goal of his BCRF research is to develop novel strategies to either control or eliminate cancer cells wherever they reside in the body, thereby improving outcomes for women with metastatic breast cancer.
In previous work, Dr. Ewald's group demonstrated that breast cancer cells travel in groups throughout the body to establish new tumors and that these cells are driven by genes that make them more invasive. Dr. Ewald developed new methods to study how these groups of cancer cells enter blood vessels and establish local sources of new metastasizing units.
A focus of their project is in understanding how cells within these groups communicate with each other and how they transition at the molecular level from migrating through the body to growing in a new organ. In the upcoming year, they will delve deeper into this question by 1) identifying the genes involved in the survival of migrating cancer cell clusters; 2) studying how normal cells of the breast and lungs promote or repress cancer cell growth; and 3) building a cutting-edge imaging system to study how cancer cell clusters spread through the body in a quantitative fashion, measured across whole organs.
The ultimate goal of this project is to identify the biological mechanisms that drive tumor cells to spread and to identify weaknesses that can be targeted to disrupt the metastatic process.
In another project co-funded by BCRF and the Jayne Koskinas Ted Giovanis Foundation for Health and Policy, Dr Ewald and collaborator Paul Newton are leadng a multidisciplinary project to gain novel insights in tumor growth and metastasis. The goal of this project is to develop analysis and modeling tools to elucidate the molecular drivers of these transitions.
Andrew J. Ewald earned his BS in physics from Haverford College and his PhD in biochemistry and molecular biophysics from the California Institute of Technology. He is currently an associate professor in the Departments of Cell Biology, Oncology, and Biomedical Engineering at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His laboratory has pioneered the use of 3D culture techniques to study the growth and invasion of breast cancer cells.
Dr. Ewald's goal is to identify the molecules driving metastatic spread to enable the development of targeted therapies. His laboratory includes basic science and medical trainees and he collaborates with both engineers and clinicians. BCRF funding is critical to his current efforts to develop strategies to identify the patients at highest risk of metastatic recurrence and to develop innovative therapies to treat patients with metastatic breast cancer.