Titles and Affiliations

Professor of Medicine
Associate Director for Translational Research
Co-Leader Breast Cancer Program
Director for Precision Oncology
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Nashville, Tennessee

Research area

Understanding the genetic events and interactions of breast cancer cells that affect tumor growth and the development of drug resistance.

Impact

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.

Progress Thus Far

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.

What's next

Dr. Park and his colleagues will continue to determine 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. 

“If not for BCRF, we would not be leaders in using molecular diagnostic tests and identifying new therapeutic targets for breast cancer.” – Dr. Park

Biography

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.

BCRF Investigator Since

2008

Donor Recognition

The Ulta Beauty Award

Areas of Focus