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Joyce Slingerland, MD, PhD, FRCPC
Professor of Medicine and Biochemistry
Director, Braman Family Breast Cancer Institute
Breast Program Leader
Associate Director for Translational Research
University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center
Seeking new strategies to prevent breast cancer metastasis
Ongoing studies are focused on understanding the interaction between tumor cells and fat cells that stimulate cancer stem cell growth and promote drug resistance and metastasis.
This work may explain the links between obesity and breast cancer and yield novel strategies for stem cell-targeted therapies to prevent metastasis.
Increasing evidence suggests that breast cancers arise from tumor initiating cells or "cancer stem cells" that survive chemotherapy and radiation, leading to recurrence, metastasis, and patient death.
Obesity is associated with a greater risk and worse outcome in breast cancer, the causes of which are not fully known. These effects have been most notable in hormone-responsive cancers that express the estrogen receptor (ER+), but are also seen in ER-negative inflammatory breast cancers.
Through her BCRF-supported research, Dr. Slingerland found that when breast cancer cells come into contact with fat cells, which make up a large proportion of the breast, inflammatory factors are produced that stimulate the growth of aggressive stem cells.
In her current BCRF project, Dr. Slingerland is studying changes in cellular pathways that occur when breast cancer cells encounter fat cells. In particular, she is studying how this pathway turns on inflammatory responses that increase cancer stem cells and drive metastasis and is looking for ways to block them. Recent work has shown that estrogens may further stimulate the inflammatory process.
This year, her team will investigate how changes in estrogen levels before and after menopause influence inflammation-induced cancer stem cell proliferation. This work may explain the links between obesity and breast cancer risk and may yield novel strategies for stem cell-targeted therapies.
Dr. Slingerland received her MD from the University of Toronto in 1983, followed by a Fellowship in Internal Medicine with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Canada. In 1987, she was certified by the American Board in Internal Medicine and in Medical Oncology by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons. In August of 2002, Dr. Slingerland came to the University of Miami School of Medicine as the Director of the Braman Breast Cancer Institute, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, where she is working to expand and coordinate research efforts on breast cancer from many disciplines.
Dr. Slingerland discovered the cell growth brakes molecule p27 and her research investigates how cancer cells lose growth restraints. Current work also investigates the causes underlying resistance to endocrine (also called anti-estrogen) therapies for breast cancer. Recent work is focused on why obesity increases breast cancer risk and worsens patient outcomes and is testing effects of a fatty environment on breast cancer stem cells.
Dr. Slingerland is also Professor of Medicine with a graduate appointment in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Miami, as well as a member of the senior leadership of the UMSCCC and Co-Program Leader of the UMSCCC's Molecular Oncology and Experimental Therapeutics Program. She continues her medical practice devoted entirely to breast cancer patients at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Jackson Memorial Hospital. She has published over 70 articles and reviews in addition to several book chapters and has received numerous awards.