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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 gives 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.

While breast cancer deaths have declined dramatically in the last two decades, far too many women and men continue to lose their lives to breast cancer. Dr. Storniolo conducts studies in tissue donated by healthy women to study the biology of early events that lead to cancer. An understanding of early changes in the normal breast will allow scientists to identify new markers for risk stratification and targets for chemoprevention or treatment.

Full Research Summary

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 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 study biological changes occurring in the earliest stages of breast cancer development. 

The team has shown that changes in cancer promoting molecular pathways are present in pre-malignant breast tissues, including cellular metabolism, immune response, estrogen metabolism, and chromosome length – a marker of genetic instability. 

They conduct molecular analysis of three breast tissue compartments: 1) milk-producing cells or epithelium; 2) surrounding connective tissue; and 3) fat tissue.  They recently identified an increase in fat metabolism in three breast tissue compartments together with an immune response reduction.  The findings suggest an important role played by fat metabolism in breast cancer initiation. 

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

Biography

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.

BCRF Investigator Since

2007

Donor Recognition

The Ulta Beauty Award

Area(s) of Focus