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Isaac Harris, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Genetics
University of Rochester 
Rochester, New York
American Association for Cancer Research

Current Research

Goal: To understand how triple-negative breast cancer uses antioxidants to survive and to identify novel targets and therapeutic strategies that block the process.

Impact: Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is aggressive and has limited treatment options. Antioxidants are important and beneficial for the health of normal cells but some of those benefits may also extend to TNBC cells. Dr. Harris is seeking to understand how TNBC uses antioxidants to survive and to devise novel approaches to prevent disease progression. 

What’s next: Dr. Harris will study the extent to which TNBC depends on antioxidants for survival by blocking the most abundant antioxidant in cells. 

Effective treatment options are lacking for patients with TNBC and novel approaches are desperately needed. Dr. Harris has discovered that triple negative breast cancer cells require antioxidants to survive. His work seeks to understand how TNB cells capture antioxidants and to target and block molecules essential to that process. 

Full Research Summary

Research area: Treating TNBC by blocking antioxidants the cancer cells need to survive. 

Impact: The most aggressive breast cancer subtype, triple-negative breast cancer, has a higher occurrence in younger women and has the poorest outcome. There are limited therapies for TBNC, highlighting the need for novel treatment strategies to combat this disease. Dr. Harris’ American Association for Cancer Research work, supported by BCRF, is focused on understanding how TNBC captures and uses antioxidants in the blood to grow and to survive treatment with chemotherapy. 

Current investigation: Dr. Harris and his team discovered in earlier work that TNBC depends on antioxidants to survive. He is now is testing the idea that TNBC hijacks antioxidants made in the body that circulate in the blood. Dr. Harris is undertaking a new way to kill TNBC by blocking a protein, glutathione (GSH), that makes circulating antioxidants available to cells. GSH found outside of cells is maintained by the liver. Dr. Harris and his team will test the extent to which circulating GSH and the protein that acts as GSH’s gatekeeper into cells, GGT1, supports TNBC survival. His research stands to broaden our knowledge of the interplay between breast cancer and its surrounding metabolic environment and to reveal new targets and therapeutic strategies for TNBC.

Biography

Isaac Harris, PhD, received both his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Toronto and conducted research in the lab of Dr. Tak Mak at Princess Margaret Cancer Center. Afterward, he joined the lab of Dr. Joan Brugge at Harvard Medical School in Boston. Recently, Dr. Harris moved to Rochester, NY to open his independent lab at the University of Rochester/Wilmot Cancer Institute. The Harris Lab at the University of Rochester Medical Center and Wilmot Cancer Institute focuses on uncovering the various roles of antioxidants in cancer by using modeling approaches and high-throughput pharmacologic screening techniques.

BCRF Investigator Since

2020

Area(s) of Focus