You are here

BCRF Investigator Since

2007

Donor Recognition

The ULTA Beauty Award

Area(s) of Focus

Anna Maria Storniolo, MD

Professor of Clinical Medicine
Department of Hematology/Oncology
Indiana University School of Medicine
Indianapolis, Indiana

Current Research

  • Seeking new prevention and treatment strategies by identifying the molecular changes in normal breast tissue that give rise to cancer. 

  • Studies are planned to understand the effect of breast feeding on the risk of triple negative breast cancer.

  • Insights gained from this work will inform future studies in cancer prevention and treatment strategies.

Despite encouraging advances in breast cancer care, approximately 40,000 women in the US still lose their lives to this disease every year. Studying the normal mammary gland offers a unique opportunity to improve our understanding of the evolution of breast cancer.

Dr. Storniolo and colleagues will utilize specimens from the Normal Breast Tissue Bank at the IU Simon Cancer Center, the only biorepository of normal breast tissue in the world, to identify early molecular changes and pathway alterations that occur during cancer initiation.

In previous work, her team showed that changes in cancer promoting molecular pathways, including cellular metabolism, immune response, estrogen metabolism, and chromosome length–a marker of genetic instability, are present in pre-malignant breast tissues.They will validate this data on a larger number of pre-cancerous samples.

Studies have shown that African American women who breastfeed have a 20 percent lower risk of developing triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) than those who do not breastfeed. One explanation for this is that breastfeeding maintains the breast cells in a differentiated– milk-producing state. 

Dr. Storniolo believes that the protective effect of breastfeeding may also be due to its anti-proliferative effect on cancer stem cells that give rise to TNBC. This year, her and the team will explore the role of pregnancy and breastfeeding on breast cancer risk.

Insights gained from this work will aid in the identification of novel molecular targets for treatment strategies and future studies focusing on cancer prevention. 

Bio

Dr. Anna Maria Storniolo is a medical oncologist and Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine. She earned her medical degree at Stanford and completed her Internal Medicine residency and fellowships in Hematology and Medical Oncology at the University of Rochester.

Prior to coming to Indiana University in September 2000, she was an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of California-San Diego. She also served in leadership positions at Eli Lilly (1992-2000), where she was responsible for the clinical development of various cancer drugs, most notably Gemzar (gemcitabine).

In addition to treating women breast cancer, Dr. Storniolo is director of the Catherine Peachey Breast Cancer Prevention Program, a comprehensive program providing risk assessment and counseling for women who may be at risk for developing breast cancer.

Her research interests include helping to define the process by which a normal breast cell becomes cancerous. That work has led her to found the Susan G. Komen Tissue Bank at the I.U. Simon Cancer Center, a biorepository of biologic specimens primarily from women who do not have breast cancer. These samples are a source of DNA, RNA and proteins which are invaluable in deciphering the molecular changes leading from normal breast cells to cancer. Elucidating the steps in the malignant process will lead to finding blood markers that could be used to identify women at risk before they actually develop breast cancer, and would also allow the development of medicines that would alter that process and prevent cancer from occurring.