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Ben Ho Park, MD, PhD
Professor of Medicine
Associate Director for Translational Research
Co-Leader Breast Cancer Program
Director for Precision Oncology
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Seeking to understand the genetic events and cell-to-cell interactions that lead to cancer.
Laboratory studies are conducted to how tumor cells cooperate to grow and thrive.
These studies will shed new light on the underpinnings of cancer development and potential new targets for drug development.
Cancers occur as a result of changes to DNA that alter cell behaviors, such as uncontrolled growth. New studies have shown that the alterations within tumors are selected to increase the tumor cell’s ability to grow and thrive. Dr. Park’s team is conducting in depth laboratory studies on how the interactions between tumor cells with distinct DNA alterations lead to cancer growth. His goal is to identify selective targets that can more effectively kill cancer cells.
Full Research Summary
Breast cancer is a disease of DNA gone awry. The traditional thinking has been that a normal cell acquires a series of genetic alterations that ultimately cause it to become cancerous. Although DNA mutations clearly lead to cancer and drug resistance, more recent research has shown the selected mutations evolve over the course of cancer development resulting in distinct subpopulations of tumor cells. These subpopulations then interact with other cancer cells to increase growth and regulate resistance to anti-cancer therapies.
Dr. Park and his team have created breast cancer cellular models and shown that cancer cells with single mutations interact with neighboring cells with other discrete mutations to increase cancerous growth and drug resistance. Interestingly, these cell-to-cell interactions require physical cell-to-cell contact. This year, the team will work to uncover the mechanism of these cellular interactions so that they can be targeted with drugs to benefit patients.
Ben Ho Park, MD, PhD, an internationally renowned breast cancer expert, was recently appointed as the co-leader of the Breast Cancer Research Program, Associate Director for Translational Research and Director of Precision Oncology at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. Dr. Park is from Saginaw, MI and received his bachelor’s degree from The University of Chicago and then completed a dual MD-PhD training program at The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. After completing a residency in Internal Medicine and Hematology/Oncology Fellowship Training at The Hospital of The University of Pennsylvania, he finished a postdoctoral research fellowship in cancer genetics in the laboratory of Dr. Bert Vogelstein at Johns Hopkins University, and then joined the faculty in 2002 in the Breast Cancer Program. At Hopkins he was Professor of Oncology, Associate Director for Education and Research Training, as well as Associate Dean for Postdoctoral Affairs prior to joining the faculty at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.