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Steffi Oesterreich, PhD
Professor of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology
Professor & Vice Chair for Precision and Translational Pharmacology
Director of Education, Women's Cancer Research Center
Magee Women's Research Institute
University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute
Goal: To understand the underlying biology of invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC), a common but understudied form of breast cancer.
Impact: Dr. Oesterreich is focused on both identifying genes and pathways involved in the development of ILC and how these tumors develop resistance to anti-estrogen therapy, the primary treatment for ILC. Her findings could inform the development of more personalized treatments for patients with ILC.
What’s next: She and her team will continue to investigate druggable pathways that are vital to the progression of ILC and develop laboratory models of ILC that can be used to study the disease.
ILC, which begins in the milk-carrying ducts in the breast, is the second most common type of breast cancer. Despite its prevalence, relatively little is known about the unique characteristics of ILC. While ILC are estrogen receptor (ER)-positive and can be successfully treated with endocrine (anti-estrogen) therapy, ILC tumors often become
s resistant to these treatments. Dr. Oesterreich is conducting laboratory studies to determine the mechanisms of resistance and discover new ways to prevent ILC from progressing.
Full Research Summary
Research area: Understanding the unique clinical and molecular features of invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC) by identifying genes and pathways that drive its development.
Impact: Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC) is the second most common histological subtype of breast cancer after invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC). Despite some intriguing histological and clinical differences between these two subtypes, ILC has been understudied. Dr. Oesterreich has identified a number of genes and pathways that drive ILC development. She hopes to identify drug targets for treatment of patients with ILC.
Current research: She and her colleagues are generating a series of laboratory models that can be used to further study ILC. They will use these models to delineate the clinical and molecular differences between ILC and IDC.
What she’s learned so far: Since the majority of ILCs are estrogen receptor-positive, resistance to endocrine treatment is a major cause of progression. Dr. Oesterreich has discovered a number of pathways that drive endocrine resistance and progression of ILC. They have also developed a laboratory model which reproduces ILC cell metastasis to different organs.
What’s next: They will continue to characterize their laboratory models to facilitate further ILC studies. In addition, they will continue to investigate the genes and pathways they have identified that drive ILC development. They hope these studies will lead to the identification of drug targets to prevent the progression of ILC.
The main interest of Dr. Oesterreich’s research is to further our understanding of hormone action in women’s cancer in order to use this knowledge for improved diagnosis and endocrine treatment. Her studies have focused on breast cancer and in receptor action in ovarian cancer. Her lab studies how the estrogen receptor (ER) functions, how its activity is regulated by diverse signaling pathways and through coregulator proteins, and if and how these mechanisms are perturbed in cancer cells. The Oesterreich lab is interested in novel concepts of ER action, such as its role in repression of gene transcription and its role in epigenetic marks in the genome. Dr. Oesterreich’s lab has also a strong interest in situ and invasive lobular disease, with a focus on estrogen and antiestrogen response. In her role as Director of Training in the Women's Cancer Research Center, she is interested in providing outstanding training opportunities to the next generation of women's cancer researchers.