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Vincent L. Cryns, MD
Professor, Department of Medicine
Marian A. and Rodney P. Burgenske Chair,
Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism
University of Wisconsin
Seeking to improve outcomes in breast cancer by identifying aberrant cell processes that lead to tumor formation and progression.
Laboratory studies are conducted to test strategies to kill cancer stem cells by targeting a critical mediator of inflammation.
These studies could lead to new treatments for metastatic, basal-like/triple negative breast cancer.
Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is a subgroup of breast cancers that can be broken into other subgroups based on molecular characteristics. Some TNBC are more aggressive than others. Basal-like triple negative breast cancer is a particularly aggressive disease with a likelihood of spreading to other tissues – a process called metastasis. Drs. Cyrns and Gradishar have identified a protein that is driving part of this aggressive behavior. They are conducting laboratory studies to understand how it promotes metastasis for the development of new targeted therapies for patients with TNBC.
Full Research Summary
Basal-like tumors, which include those classified as triple negative, are clinically aggressive and lack targeted therapies.
Drs. Cryns and Gradishar and their colleagues have shown that a cell stress protein called alphaβ-crystallin contributes to the aggressive behavior of basal-like/triple negative tumors and regulates breast cancer metastasis to organs such as the brain.
Recently, the team showed that alphaβ-crystallin promotes survival of breast cancer stem cells (BCSC), specialized cells that are suspected to driver metastasis, suggesting that alphaβ-crystallin may be a target for stopping metastasis. It does this by increasing expression of a molecule called IL-6, a molecule involved in inflammatory response.
During the next year, the team will continue to examine the role of the alphaβ-crystallin/IL-6 network on BCSCs and metastasis and determine whether alphaβ-crystallin expression correlates with other markers of BCSCs. These studies could lead to new treatments for metastatic basal-like/triple negative breast cancer.
Vincent Cryns, MD, is the Marian A. and Rodney P. Burgenske Chair in Diabetes Research and Chief, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. He received his bachelor’s and medical degrees from Harvard and did subspecialty training in endocrinology at Massachusetts General Hospital. Before coming to Madison, Dr. Cryns was a Professor of Medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
Dr. Cryns leads a multidisciplinary team who focus on understanding how cells die. His group is especially interested in elucidating how abnormalities in cell death contribute to diseases such as cancer and obesity and in translating these insights into improved therapies. Dr. Cryns’ research is funded by the NIH, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and other agencies. His work has been featured on National Public Radio’s "All Things Considered" and highlighted in Nature and Nature Reviews Cancer. Dr. Cryns has been the recipient of several awards, including an Outstanding Junior Faculty Award from the Avon Foundation, and he is an elected member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation.