Ben Ho Park, MD, PhD
Deputy Director, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center
Director, Division of Hematology and Oncology
Professor of Medicine
Associate Director for Translational Research
Director for Precision Oncology
Understanding the genetic events and interactions of breast cancer cells that affect tumor growth and the development of drug resistance.
Tumors are made up of a collection of cells, each with its own distinct genetic profile but capable of interacting with each other to promote growth or resistance to treatment. An alteration in the DNA of one cell can affect surrounding cells and increase the tumor's ability to grow and thrive. Because they promote uncontrolled growth, those alterations are selectively perpetuated. Dr. Park has developed and characterized unique breast cancer cell models to investigate how cancer cells interact with neighboring cells to affect cancerous growth and drug resistance. Their research will shed new light on the underpinnings of cancer development and provide additional new targets for drug development, setting the stage for the next generation of breast cancer therapies.
His studies have revealed that cancer cells with single mutations interact with neighboring cells that harbor distinct and different mutations. Moreover, these interactions require physical cell to cell contact and are mediated by specific proteins expressed by the cancer cells, including the protein fibronectin. His team is hoping to identify new ways to target proteins like fibronectin to prevent cell-to-cell interaction for therapeutic benefit. Dr. Park and his team performed single cell analysis on breast cancer cells and observed that cells with mutations in either the PIK3CA or HER2 genes act differently and affect other surrounding cells compared to cells that carry both mutations.
Dr. Park and his colleagues will continue to study the mechanisms that promote cellular interactions and affect cancerous growth and drug resistance and exploit their findings to develop targeted strategies to prevent these cellular interactions. His team will delve into the results from the single cell analyses and define how mutations in PIK3CA and/or HER2 genes influence cellular response to therapies targeting these mutations.
If not for BCRF, we would not be leaders in using molecular diagnostic tests and identifying new therapeutic targets for breast cancer. – Dr. Park
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.
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