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Andrew Ewald, PhD
Professor & Director, Department of Cell Biology
Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Professor of Oncology and Co-Director, Cancer Invasion and Metastasis Program
Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Goal: To understand how breast cancer spreads and to identify preventive strategies to improve patient outcomes.
Impact: Dr. Ewald is studying how breast cancer cells spread through the body to form new tumors in the lungs, brain, liver, and bones. This process, called metastasis, is the major cause of cancer deaths. His findings may guide the development of new strategies to improve outcomes for women with metastatic breast cancer (MBC).
What’s next: He and his colleagues will continue to reveal how breast cancer cells metastasize and aim to identify targets within breast cancer cells that allow them to form new tumors at distant sites.
Metastatic breast cancer (MBC) is cancer that has spread from the breast to other parts of the body. While treatable, it is currently incurable. Dr. Ewald employs sophisticated laboratory technologies to study breast cancer cells and understand the steps involved that allow them travel through the body and colonized new sites. His goal is to discover ways to prevent metastasis from occurring and to identify new molecular targets to improve outcomes for patients with MBC.
Full Research Summary
Research area: Seeking to understand the biology of breast cancer metastasis in order to develop new therapies for breast cancer patients.
Impact: The major cause of breast cancer deaths is metastasis, the process by which breast cancer cells invade distant organs and establish new tumors there. In order to prevent this process from occurring, researchers must first identify the mechanisms that drive it. Dr. Ewald is studying metastasis at the cellular and molecular level with the goal of discovering ways to both prevent and treat metastatic breast cancer (MBC).
Current investigation: With the support of BCRF, Dr. Ewald’s laboratory has been investigating how different cell types within the body promote or inhibit metastasis and identifying the key targetable molecules within breast cancer cells that allow them to form new metastases.
What he’s learned so far: During the last year, Dr. Ewald’s lab showed how breast cancer cells: recruit molecular support from normal breast cells, collectively enter blood vessels, survive the stress of circulation through their adhesive interactions, and corrupt the immune system into helping them to grow into lethal metastases.
What’s next: Dr. Ewald will continue to leverage his collaborations with biologists, engineers, and clinicians to further deepen the understanding of the molecular mechanisms that breast cancer cells use to metastasize.
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 a 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.
Dr. Ewald founded the Cancer Invasion and Metastasis Research Program at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, which brings together 40 faculty from 15 departments to understand how metastasis works and bring these insights to patient benefit. In 2021, he was appointed director of the Department of Cell Biology at Johns Hopkins Medicine. His department has historic strengths in imaging, cell migration, lipid trafficking, and cancer cell biology. Leadership of these two units enables him to bring together basic scientists, engineers, and clinicians and to apply cutting edge technologies and multidisciplinary perspectives to solve problems in breast cancer