Featured Researcher—Stefanie S. Jeffrey, M.D.
Dr. Stefanie Jeffrey is the Chief of Breast Surgery and a John and Marva Warnock Faculty Scholar in Cancer Research at Stanford University School of Medicine.
Developing Individualized Therapies for Breast Cancer
Dr. Jeffrey is using genomic analysis to identify the critical genes that differentiate normal cells from breast cancer cells and to distinguish important subsets of cancer cells within tumors. In particular, she is determining which cells within a tumor can gain access to the blood and lymphatic circulation, and which specific cells among circulating tumor cells can form metastases (tumors that have spread from the breast to other areas of the body). The ultimate goal is to identify targets for the development of patient-specific, low toxic therapies for breast cancer. For more information about her studies click here. Read more >
Ask an Expert
If you’d like to ask Dr. Jeffrey a question about her research, please email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org any time between February 9 and March 30. New questions and answers will be posted regularly, so check back for updates.
- Q. How will understanding the characteristics of breast cancer stem cells
move us closer to individualized therapy?
A. We know that breast cancers are made up of a mixture of different cancer cells. One of the types are cancer stem cells, which can regrow a cancer because of its ability to "self-renew". However, we don't know if it is the cancer stem cell that travels to other sites in the body, so we are studying cancer stem cells in conjunction with our studies to characterize circulating tumor cells (cells that are shed by a tumor and travel in the blood stream). We are trying to determine if there are different types of cancer stem cells, and whether these cells have the ability to enter the blood stream and travel to other areas of the body to form metastases. The theory is that a therapy would need to treat the cancer stem cell, not just the daughters of the stem cell, or else tumors would shrink but not be completely eradicated. Think of it like a weed--you might pull out the part above the ground, but if you don't get to the root, the weed will grow back.
- Q. Are you finding any genetic patterns that predict which tumors will
A. This is a very important question. Right now, we have a general idea of which tumors are "bad actors" but not enough definite information to say for sure. There are tests that are becoming commercially available around the world to identify good tumors from bad tumors (especially for ER positive lymph node negative disease), but nothing that can really tell you for sure if your tumor will metastasize. However, there are a lot of people doing a lot of research in this particular area.
- Q. Has genetic and/or protein profiling uncovered any tumor vulnerabilities
that can be exploited treat breast cancer?
A. Yes. There is a lot of published literature on this, and there are many drugs in the pipeline, undergoing early and late phase tests. There are too many to detail here. However, if you go to http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct/screen/browseany?path=%2fbrowse%2fby-condition%2faz%2fb&recruiting=true, you can search through clinical trials available for "breast diseases" or "breast neoplasms".
- Q. How could the information gathered from your studies be useful in
preventing breast cancer?
A. Unfortunately, I am looking at the other end of the spectrum from Prevention: why tumors grow and metastasize. Prevention is probably a more important area, but it is much more complex and difficult to study--understanding what causes breast cancer. There are many excellent researchers tackling this subject, but I am not one of them.
Other Featured Researchers
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