Titles and Affiliations

Director of the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center
Professor of Medicine and Cellular and Molecular Biology
Baylor College of Medicine
Houston, Texas

Research area

Developing a minimally invasive test to monitor breast cancer response to treatment.


Tumors develop because of the accumulation of mutations in the genome that occur during the course of a lifetime. As they progress to become invasive, the tumors cells continue to accumulate DNA mutations, and pieces of this DNA are shed into the circulation. Using liquid biopsy technology, it is possible to detect circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) in a sample of blood. Dr. Ellis is developing a ctDNA test that would allow for rapid monitoring of the breast cancer and response to therapy. If successful, it would allow doctors to assess treatment effectiveness early in the course of therapy so that any necessary changes in treatment can be made before a patient’s cancer becomes incurable.

Progress Thus Far

Dr. Ellis has made key progress in the validation phase of the ctDNA assay and can reliably detect ctDNA from individual patients. The team has achieved successful proof of concept case studies monitoring disease progression and are poised to move forward with a prospective clinical trial.

What's next

In the coming year, Dr. Ellis will continue testing patient ctDNA blood samples to further validate their technology. He and his team will also develop and expand ctDNA monitoring for advanced breast cancer. To that end, Dr. Ellis has created a new biospecimen collection protocol at Baylor College of Medicine to detect and monitor ctDNA in patients with metastatic breast cancer and will begin testing the utility of the technology for advanced disease.


Originally from the United Kingdom, Matthew Ellis completed his medical training in the U.K. at the Universities of Cambridge and London.  After 11 years at Washington University in St Louis, Dr. Ellis is the incoming Director of the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center and Professor of Medicine and Cellular and Molecular Biology at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston Texas. His research interests include the identification of genes that affect responses and resistance to endocrine therapy in breast cancer Patients. Dr. Ellis is also co-principal investigator for the NCI-funded Proteome Characterization Center and co-project leader for The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) Breast Project. Dr. Ellis was the recipient of ASCO's 2015 Gianni Bonadonna Breast Cancer Award and Lecture for his pioneering research into the clinical relevance of activating mutations in HER2 and in the deployment of patient-derived xenografts for the pharmacological annotation of breast cancer genomes.

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

The AutoNation DRV PNK Award

Areas of Focus