Anna Maria Storniolo, MD
Andrew and Peggy Thomson Professor of Hematology/Oncology
Professor of Clinical Medicine, Department of Medicine
Indiana University School of Medicine
To understand the earliest stages of cancer development to identify novel targets for the prevention of breast cancer in high-risk women.
Significant progress has been made in our understanding of the molecular drivers in aggressive breast cancers, but the early events that lead to cancer are still unknown. Utilizing Indiana University’s Normal Tissue Bank, Dr. Storniolo is examining the molecular changes that cause normal breast tissue to become malignant—work that could lead to the development of personalized methods of preventing breast cancer. These molecular changes include non-heritable alterations to DNA, called epigenetic changes, that regulate gene expression but do not involve changes in the DNA sequence. Aberrant DNA methylation patterns are among the earliest and most common epigenetic events in cancer formation. Dr. Storniolo’s team is exploring the role of epigenetics in breast cancer development and they hope to uncover novel therapeutic targets for breast cancer prevention.
Dr. Storniolo and her team have identified nine genes whose expression is potentially regulated by DNA methylation. These genes are highly active in women at high risk for developing breast cancer and are associated with the transformation of normal breast cells to malignant cancer cells.
In the coming year, Dr. Storniolo’s team will focus on SULT1C, a gene involved in the metabolism of foreign substances and hormones. They will study how its expression affects the ability of the cells in the breast to protect themselves from the carcinogenic effects of toxic foreign substances. They hope this work will further our understanding of breast cancer risk at a molecular level and identify new targets for breast cancer treatment and prevention.
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 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.
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