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Jeremy Borniger, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Neuroscience
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Cold Spring Harbor, New York
American Association of Cancer Research
Goal: To understand how the nervous system contributes to cancer processes.
Impact: Breast cancer patients often experience debilitating symptoms including poor sleep, depression, cognitive problems, pain, and changes in appetite. Despite the prevalence of these symptoms, it is poorly understood how these processes work at cellular and systemic levels. Dr. Borniger is seeking to understand how the nervous system contributes to the initiation, growth, spread, recurrence, and therapeutic resistance of cancers.
What’s next: Dr. Borniger will map how tumor development alters brain-wide neural activity and identify neural circuits that affect immune response and sleep. Breast cancer re-shapes neuronal activity in ways that are not well-understood. Dr. Borniger’s work will investigate how mammary tumors affect neuronal activity and the role of the nervous system in helping breast cancer evade the immune system.
Full Research Summary
Research area: Understanding the link between the nervous system and cancer progression and resistance.
Impact: There is increasing evidence that breast cancer affects brain function and results in symptoms including poor sleep, cognitive problems, pain, and changes in appetite. There is limited understanding, however, of the crosstalk between tumors and the neuronal circuits that control cancer-associated processes. Dr. Borniger’s American Association for Cancer Research, supported by BCRF, is focused on unraveling the neural pathways that alter physiology and behavior, which are critical to developing novel therapies that target breast cancer as a systemic diseased rather than localized at the site of the cancer itself.
Current investigation: In earlier work, Dr. Borniger and his team discovered a neural circuit that drives breast cancer-associated sleep and metabolic dysfunction. He and his team showed that non-metastatic breast cancer disrupts a signaling pathway that leads to activated neurons in the hypothalamus of the brain, causing fragmented sleep. Dr. Borniger has also observed widespread changes in neuronal activity across the entire brain in response to breast cancer. He and his team are now mapping how breast cancer influences brain activity in four distinct stages of cancer development—from premalignancy to malignancy and metastasis—and will determine how neurons are changed and how they drive breast cancer. Dr. Borniger’s work represents a novel research area that has the potential to uncover new pathways that can be targeted for treatment and to deepen our understanding of the bi-directional communication between breast cancer and the brain.
Dr. Borniger is the 2020 recipient of the BCRF-AACR Next Gen Award for Transformative Breast Cancer Research, in honor of Dr. Nancy Davidson.
Jeremy Borniger, PhD earned his BA from Indiana University – Bloomington in biological anthropology and PhD from The Ohio State University in neuroscience. Following his dissertation on brain-cancer crosstalk controlling sleep/wake states and hepatic metabolism, Dr. Borniger completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University working with Dr. Luis de Lecea on the identification of novel circuitry controlling sleep/wake states as well as central control of peripheral immunity. The Borniger Lab at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory aims to uncover mechanistic interactions between the brain and cancer and how manipulation of specific brain circuits influences cancer processes in the body.