University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
May Goldman Shaw Distinguished Professor of Molecular Oncology Research
Professor of Genetics & Pathology
Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center
Using cutting-edge sequencing technologies and artificial intelligence to better understand the complexity of breast cancer and improve personalized medicine.
The goal of personalized medicine is to find the right therapy for each patient, based on the unique features driving that individual’s tumor growth. Tumors can vary widely between patients for several reasons: inherited genetic differences, mutations and genetic changes that develop during a patient’s lifetime, or the composition of the tumor microenvironment—the cells, structures, and molecules that surround a tumor and affect its progression. All contribute to the tumor’s susceptibility to therapies. Dr. Perou and his team employ technologies that analyze genetic information from individual cells (single cell sequencing). This allows for more precise characterization of all cells, including immune cells that infiltrate the tumor, and provides a picture of which cells are present. Dr. Perou’s long-term goal is to improve therapies and the accuracy of prognoses.
Dr. Perou and his team have recently shown a unique means of tumor immune evasion via the loss of immune surveillance proteins that are normally found on the surface of immune cells. The team has created a tumor model system that mimics the loss of immune surveillance proteins and are now testing these tumor models for increased metastatic potential and resistance to immune targeting. In addition, Dr. Perou has made progress in developing new computational models that can predict how a tumor will respond to treatment, and thus patient outcomes, and are using these tools to analyze a large set of clinical triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) data.
In the coming year, Dr. Perou will complete development and testing of the tumor model system that mimics the loss of immune surveillance proteins and expand their TNBC database to test and train their computational tools to predict response to chemotherapy and survival for patients with TNBC.
Dr. Perou is a member of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at UNC, and the Scientific Director of the UNC Bioinformatics Core. He received his PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the Department of Pathology at the University of Utah (1996) where he cloned the human Chediak-Higashi Syndrome gene. He next performed his postdoctoral training in the laboratory of David Botstein at Stanford University (1997-2000) where he began his genomic studies of human tumors using DNA microarrays. These genomic analyses resulted in the identification of novel subtypes of human breast tumors that predict patient survival times and response to therapy. Dr. Perou’s laboratory at UNC is focused on using genomics, genetics, and laboratory models to decipher the underlying biology of the molecular subtypes of breast cancer. He then uses this biological information to develop novel therapeutic strategies that are specifically targeted against each of these distinct subtypes of breast cancer.
The Susan Hertog Award
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