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BCRF Grantee Since


Area(s) of Focus

Michael Andreeff, MD, PhD

Paul and Mary Haas Chair in Genetics
Professor of Medicine
Chief, Section of Molecular Hematology and Therapy
Professor of Medicine, Department of Leukemia
Professor of Medicine, Department of Stem Cell Transplantation
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Houston, Texas

Current Research

Recent discoveries in breast cancer research suggest that recurrence or relapse of breast cancer after treatment may be caused by breast cancer stem-like cells (BCSCs), also called breast cancer-initiating cells. While these cells make up a small fraction of the tumor, they are resistant to chemotherapy and capable of metastases (spreading of the tumor to another part of the body). Therefore, targeting BCSCs is an important strategy that could complement standard chemotherapy. Dr. Andreeff’s laboratory recently discovered that BCSCs have a high amount of a cell surface molecule called GD2. In the past year they showed that GD2 is regulated by a protein called NF-kappa B and that blocking NF-kappa B with chemical inhibitors reduced the amount of GD2 and slowed the growth of breast cancer cells. In the coming year they will test the combination of NF-kappa B-specific inhibitors with conventional chemotherapy drugs in breast tumors. Using this approach, they will target both BCSCs that have high amounts of GD2 as well as other tumor cells that do not. The researchers expect this will lead to a major reduction in tumor growth and metastases.

Another important process in metastasis is what is called epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT). This refers to changes in cell shape and characteristics that make the cell more invasive and mobile. Dr. Andreeff’s group previously showed that this transformation of breast cancer cells generates breast cancer stem-like cells with high GD2 levels and promotes the multiplication of these cells. To prevent this, they will block EMT-controlling genes called TWIST, SNAIL, ZEB1, and TGF-β1. Collectively, these studies may lead to discovery of new targets to inhibit EMT and breast cancer metastasis and pave the way for the development of new therapeutic strategies in breast cancer.


Michael Andreeff received his MD and PhD from the University of Heidelberg, Germany, and additional training at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He has been a pioneer in flow cytometry since 1971, when he established the first flow cytometry laboratory at the University of Heidelberg and organized the first European flow cytometry conference. In 1977 he joined MSKCC, became head of the Leukemia Cell Biology and Hematopathology flow cytometry laboratory, and organized the first Clinical Cytometry Conference in 1986.