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Steffi Oesterreich, PhD

Professor of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology
Director of Education, Women's Cancer Research Center
Magee Women's Research Institute
University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Current Research

  • Seeking to characterize the unique biology of invasive lobular breast cancer (ILC) for the development of personalized treatment strategies for this group of patients.

  • Laboratory studies are ongoing to understand mechanisms of drug resistance in ILC.

  • This work will provide valuable insight into an understudied type of breast cancer and may lead to potential new druggable targets to improve outcomes for ILC patients.

Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC) is the second most common histological subtype of breast cancer. Although the majority of ILCs are estrogen receptor positive (ER+) and typically have a better prognosis than other invasive breast cancers, ILC is clearly very different from invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), and its unique biology is poorly understood. Recent studies, including the analysis of ILC within The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), have shown that ILC is not only visibly distinct but also a molecularly distinct disease.

The focus of Dr. Oesterreich's BCRF research is to better understand resistance to anti-estrogen therapies and develop more personalized treatment strategies for this group of patients. Previous work from the Oesterreich group suggests that the estrogen receptor regulates a unique set of molecular programs in ILC, making this type of breast cancer more resistant to anti-estrogen therapy. The team identified other protein signaling factors that may be targets to improve response to treatment and are continuing to pursue these studies.

In the coming year, they will investigate the mechanisms that drive ILC endocrine resistance by studying endocrine-resistant ILC cell lines and performing genetic analysis to compare their expression profiles with matched endocrine-sensitive cell lines. These efforts are leading to a better understanding of a relatively understudied type of breast cancer.

Dr. Oesterreich serves as a Scientific Advisor for a “Lobular Breast Cancer Alliance” an advocacy group that formed as result of the 1st International ILC symposium, held in Pittsburgh in September 2016, and supported by BCRF. Although the group is still in its infancy, it has a clearly defined mission, a dedicated leadership, and some subcommittees with well-defined goals. 


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.

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

The Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation Award

Area(s) of Focus