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Camila dos Santos, PhD
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Cold Spring Harbor, New York
American Association for Cancer Research
Goal: To understand how pregnancy-associated changes in breast tissue may reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.
Impact: Women who have their first child at an early age may decrease their risk of developing breast cancer. During pregnancy, breast tissues undergo both structural and biological transformation, necessary for the breast to produce milk. However, although milk production stops after pregnancy, certain features persist long after the pregnancy. Dr. dos Santos is trying to pinpoint clinically relevant associations between molecular changes induced during pregnancy and a reduced likelihood of developing breast cancer.
What’s next: Dr. dos Santos is analyzing cells from breasts before and after pregnancy to identify molecular changes that remain within the milk-producing cells of the breast and affect breast cancer risk.
Pregnancy-associated changes in the breast have breast cancer protective effects. Dr. dos Santos will use a variety of analytical methods to understand why the risk of developing breast cancer is reduced after pregnancy at a young age. Her research may lead to novel strategies of prophylactic intervention.
Full Research Summary
Research area: Investigating the biology of pregnancy-associated changes in the breast to identify novel ways to prevent breast cancer.
Impact: Being pregnant at a young age may reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by as much as 50 percent, compared to nulliparous women. Hormonal changes associated with pregnancy cause both changes to the breast tissue environment and changes that are intrinsic to the cells that comprise the mammary gland. Dr. dos Santos’ American Association for Cancer Research project, supported by BCRF, is aimed at understanding how pregnancy-induced changes in the breast tissue and changes within the milk-producing cells types, affect cancer progression. This knowledge may lead to new preventive strategies.
Current investigation: Dr. dos Santos is conducting a series of laboratory-based experiments to identify how the immune system influences the breast during pregnancy and may relay cancer protecting properties.
What she’s learned so far: Dr. dos Santos has established that certain pregnancy-induced molecular changes in milk-producing cells remain even after pregnancy. In addition, her laboratory has developed a model system that allows her to study pregnancy-induced changes in the breast.
What’s next: Dr. dos Santos will continue to investigate the molecular factors at play in breast cancer development and identify factors that may suppress the preventive effect of pregnancy.
Dr. Camila Oresco dos Santos is an Assistant Professor in the Cancer Center at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), New York. She received MS degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology and was awarded a PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology at State University of Campinas, Brazil. She completed her postdoctoral training at CSHL where she studied and developed improved methodology to isolate mammary gland stem cells (MaSCs). At CSHL, Dr. dos Santos received many awards and published several first author papers in high impact journals. In 2015, she was recruited as an Assistant Professor at CSHL. Her lab focuses on understanding how pregnancy-induced molecular changes play critical role in preventing breast cancer.