Associate Professor, Department of Pathology
Member, Breast Cancer Basic Science Program
Member, Cancer Immunology Research Program
Loyola University Chicago
The majority of breast cancers are classified as estrogen receptor positive, that is, they make the estrogen receptor (ER+). This type of breast cancer usually responds well to anti-hormonal treatments such as tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors. However, resistance to anti-hormonal drugs remains a major clinical concern as these tumors continue to grow and are more likely to spread to other organs (metastasize). Drs. Osipo and Albain have been studying the role of the Notch signaling pathway in breast cancer for more than a decade and have found that Notch is very important for the survival of breast cancer stem cells, also sometimes referred to as tumor origination cells as they are believed to be the origins of a tumor and required for tumor progression. The research team has begun testing drugs that inhibit the Notch pathway in combination with tamoxifen in women with ER+ breast cancer and found that the treatment significantly altered many genes important in cancer, which may provide a “gene signature” that could predict breast cancer stem cell survival and identify patients with a high risk of tumor relapse. In the coming year, they will continue their work, focusing in particular on how Notch works to regulate this new panel of genes to cause drug resistance.
Dr. Clodia Osipo received her PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry from Loyola University in 2002 while working under Dr. Allen Frankfater. Thereafter, she did her post-doctoral fellowship at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University. Dr. V. Craig Jordan, the principal developer of adjuvant tamoxifen therapy for estrogen receptor positive breast cancer, was her mentor. Dr. Osipo's research under Dr. Jordan focused on investigating the role of HER2/neu, the second member of the epidermal growth factor receptor family, in breast tumors that had acquired resistance to tamoxifen in vivo. Dr. Osipo has published numerous articles, reviews, and book chapters on tamoxifen and other selective estrogen receptor modulators and downregulators. She joined Loyola University Chicago as an Assistant Professor in 2005. She is currently an Associate Professor of Pathology with tenure and the co-leader of the breast cancer program with Dr. Kathy Albain, MD. Dr. Osipo's research focuses on elucidating the role of Notch signaling in resistance to anti-estrogen and HER2-targeted therapies in breast cancer.