You are here

Sandra Ryeom, PhD

Assistant Professor, Biology
Perelman School of Medicine
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA

Current Research

  • Seeking more effective cancer therapies by studying the tumor environment to identify novel targets for drug development

  • Laboratory studies are conducted to identify strategies to block tumor growth by inhibiting new blood vessel formation and nutrient supply.

  • Information gained from normal cells can inform new approaches to cancer treatment.

There is significant epidemiological evidence suggesting a positive relationship between physical activity and a reduced cancer risk. However, once patients already have a diagnosis of cancer, much less is understood about the effect of exercise on disease progression. One health-promoting effect of exercise is improving blood vessels, which improves oxygen delivery to muscles. Since tumors also need oxygen, could exercise also benefit a growing tumor? Dr. Ryeom is conducting studies on the effect of exercise on blood vessels, tumor growth and metastasis in laboratory models of breast cancer.

Full Research Summary

The overarching goal of the Ryeom lab is to understand how non-tumor factors–normal cells and tissue that surround the tumor–are regulated, in order to identify novel strategies for more effective cancer treatments. 
Her current work is specifically focused on the lifeline of tumors –the blood vessels that are needed to supply nutrients and fuel for tumor growth. New blood vessel formation, a process called angiogenesis, is essential for tumors to grow and spread to distant tissues, a process known as metastasis.
Aerobic training is known to improve vascular function and increase oxygen delivery to skeletal muscle. It also mediates new blood vessel formation through the increased expression of hundreds of genes, including a well-known tumor-promoting gene called VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor). In fact, several anti-VEGF therapies have been approved for treatment of some cancers.
While exercise is known to reduce the risk of cancer, the effect of exercise after a cancer diagnosis and treatment is not well studied. Dr. Ryeom’s studies have shown that moderate exercise increases tumor growth and metastasis in laboratory models. Her ongoing studies are aimed at understanding the underlying biology of this potentially adverse effect of exercise that could affect breast cancer patients after treatment completion.


Dr. Sandra Ryeom is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Cancer Biology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Previously, Dr. Ryeom was a Research Associate at the Children’s Hospital and Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School.  Dr. Ryeom has extensively studied the regulation and role of the vascular endothelium in the tumor microenvironment, during development and in different organ environments as a critical cellular population in stem cell niches.  She has also investigated the regulation of endogenous angiogenesis inhibitors and links to classic tumor suppressive pathways as well as cross talk between endothelial cells and stromal cells during pathologic conditions as well as during development. Her research cuts across normal human development and is relevant to childhood cancers and many other cancers, such as breast cancer, found in adults.  Dr. Ryeom completed her bachelor’s degree in physics from Wellesley College and doctoral degree in cell biology and genetics at the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medicine. Dr. Ryeom completed her training with a postdoctoral fellowship in cell biology at Harvard Medical School.

Grid Researcher Headshot - Ryeom

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

The Garrett B. Smith Foundation/S. Arthur and Dorothy Neufeld Foundation Award

Area(s) of Focus