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Carol Sartorius, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Pathology,
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
Denver, Colorado

Current Research

  • Seeking to identify the tumor cells responsible for drug resistance and breast cancer recurrence.

  • Laboratory studies are conducted to understand the significance of cancer cell subtypes in the initiation, growth and metastasis of luminal breast cancers.

  • This research will shed new light on the biology of luminal breast cancer that will inform new therapeutic strategies.

Approximately 75 percent of all breast cancers fall into the luminal classification and require estrogen to grow. While most of these cancers are treatable with anti-estrogen therapies, luminal cancers also contain cancer cells that do not need estrogen and are resistant to this therapy.

Therefore, when luminal cancers are treated, the hormone-responsive cells die, but the rogue cells are not affected. These resistant cells are thought be the cells responsible for tumor dormancy and later recurrence. 

Dr. Sartorius' team of basic and clinical investigators will utilize unique experimental and patient-derived luminal breast cancer models to understand the significance of cell subtypes in luminal cancers, their role in initiating tumors and in spawning dormant mini-tumors at metastatic sites, and the roles of the hormones estradiol and progesterone in awakening dormant tumor cells and breast cancer recurrence.

They will compare gene expression in tumor cells from metastatic or primary tumors to identify the genes that are necessary for survival in different organs. They believe that luminal tumors have different kinds of stem cells that direct tumor cells to different organs, and they will work to identify strategies to prevent this.


Dr. Sartorius earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and PhD from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, both in Molecular Biology. She did her postdoctoral work at the University of Colorado Boulder and is currently an Associate Professor at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus (UC-AMC).

Dr. Sartorius’s research studies the biology, progression, and endocrine resistance of hormone receptor positive breast cancer. Her laboratory seeks to understand the molecular basis of transcriptional regulation by progesterone receptors (PR) and how this impacts estrogen receptors (ER) and tumor cell phenotype. Current research topics include hormone regulation of cancer stem cells and tumor heterogeneity, hormone regulation of metastasis, hormone control of translation and protein synthesis, and how host obesity and metabolic syndrome specifically affect ER+ breast cancer and endocrine resistance. Dr. Sartorius’s team also specializes in developing hormone-dependent breast cancer models. She is the co-founder and co-director (with Dr. Peter Kabos) of the breast cancer patient-derived xenograft (PDX) bank at UC-AMC. Their collection emphasizes ER+PR+ tumors. These tumor models are being characterized by genomic and proteomic techniques to discover novel hormone receptor interactions that can be leveraged for treatment. The goal is to improve hormone-directed therapies for breast cancer.

She is an active member of the Cancer Biology Training Program at UC-AMC with an interest in training the next generation of scientists in the field of hormones and cancer. Her laboratory trains predoctoral students, and postdoctoral and clinical fellows.

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

The Play for P.I.N.K. Award

Area(s) of Focus