Titles and Affiliations

John Charles Cain Distinguished Chair
Department of Clinical Cancer Prevention
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Houston, Texas

Research area

Identifying new targets for the treatment and prevention of triple-negative breast cancer.


Triple-negative breast cancers (TNBC) are the most aggressive form of breast cancer, have a very poor prognosis, and patients with TNBC have few treatment options. More strategies to combat TNBC are urgently needed. Dr. Brown’s goal is to identify more effective and safe targeted therapies for patients with TNBC.

Progress Thus Far

Dr. Brown’s previous BCRF-funded work demonstrated that a protein called SOX9, suppresses cell death and is essential for the survival and growth of TNBC. However, the SOX9 protein is difficult to target in the clinical setting. To address this problem, Dr. Brown and his team have identified other proteins that interact with and likely control SOX9 activity in TNBC.

What's next

Dr. Brown will target these SOX9 partner proteins using small molecule inhibitors to determine whether the inhibitors kill TNBC cells, stop their growth, and prevent metastasis. He will test these SOX9 inhibitors in combination with other therapies such as immunotherapy, chemotherapy, or other targeted therapies. Ultimately, Dr. Brown aims to translate these findings into new drugs to treat TNBC and prevent death from metastatic disease. 


Powel Brown is a physician-scientist and molecular biology researcher focused on identifying novel strategies to effectively treat breast cancer at the University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center, where he is Chair of the Department of Clinical Cancer Prevention. He is currently identifying molecules highly expressed in triple-negative breast cancer that are essential for growth, survival, and metastasis, and developing strategies to inhibit these molecules for the treatment of this aggressive form of breast cancer. Dr. Brown has previously used genomic techniques to identify distinct subtypes of TNBC with varying clinical outcomes (1), and have also identified specific kinases (2), phosphatases (3), and transcription factors (4) critical for the growth and survival of TNBC. Through his study of highly expressed and activated transcription factors in TNBC, he discovered that SOX transcription factors are essential for TNBC survival and metastasis. These results provided the rationale to target Sox9 for the prevention and treatment of breast cancer metastasis.

BCRF Investigator Since


Areas of Focus