University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Professor of Internal Medicine and Epidemiology
Director, Breast and Ovarian Cancer Risk Evaluation Program
Identifying new strategies for the prevention and treatment of aggressive breast cancers.
Very aggressive breast cancers such as inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), subsets of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), and others that rapidly progress have acquired the ability to promote cancer cell motility throughout the body and resist therapies, characteristics known to promote metastasis. By studying these molecular adaptations, Dr. Merajver and her team devised potential new avenues to attack aggressive cancer cells. They hope to be able to guide therapies for patients diagnosed with aggressive breast cancers in the US and worldwide, especially as TNBC and IBC disproportionately burden underserved populations and have higher incidence in individuals of African ancestry.
The team explored several exciting lines of study in the last year, based on their earlier findings that a protein called RhoC is involved in both tumor metabolism, and inflammatory processes that support tumor growth. This included searching for metabolic vulnerabilities in breast cancer and common adaptations that develop during tumor progression, that might serve as future therapeutic targets.
Dr. Merajver’s team is aiming to identify and exploit metabolic vulnerabilities of cancer cells and develop unique laboratory models and devices, which closely mimic environments where cancer cells spread. These novel systems and devices will allow the team to develop better drug screening methods, model the activity of drugs in a more realistic environment, and allow for better therapeutic options for patients with aggressive breast cancer.
Dr. Sofia Merajver is a physician scientist with a translational focus on integrating molecular genetics of breast cancer with fundamental studies of the dynamics of cancer signal transduction into innovative clinical strategies for women at high risk for breast cancer and cancer patients. As Director of the Breast and Ovarian Cancer Risk Evaluation Program and as Scientific Director of the Breast Oncology Program, she is engaged with clinical translational research that tests molecular, engineering, and educational interventions for cancer patients. From 2010-2013 she served as Director of the University of Michigan Center for Global Health, a University-wide, cross-disciplinary global health translational research project to ameliorate health disparities in the US and globally. Her research in the molecular biology of cancer and aggressive cancer phenotypes encompasses work on the role of Rho and other signaling and cytoskeletal proteins in cancer cell invasion and motility, the role of copper in angiogenesis, and metabolism and signal transduction in cancer. Her research laboratory has collaborated with systems biologists and modelers for over 7 years on projects that focused on the fundamental structure of information transmission in cellular signal transduction cascades. This work has brought together physicists, electrical engineers, biological chemists, cell biologists, and oncologists working on different aspects of the problem both from a theoretical standpoint and for the experimental testing of the models’ predictions. In the Merajver laboratory, teams of molecular biologists are working alongside faculty and students in mathematics, bioinformatics, and engineering to model and understand the details of single cell motion and the key signaling intermediates that determine the switch between motion and proliferation, both structurally and metabolically.
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