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BCRF Grantee Since


Donor Recognition

The Macy's Award

Area(s) of Focus

Rachel Schiff, PhD

Associate Professor
Department of Medicine, Breast Center
Baylor College of Medicine
Houston, Texas

Current Research

Although there are effective treatments for estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) and HER2+ breast cancers, many tumors are, or become resistant to these therapies. Drs. Schiff and Osborne are collaborating to develop new models of resistance that can be used for a variety of scientific studies to identify key molecules responsible for treatment resistance and to develop new treatments that will improve patient outcome. Their BCRF research suggests that drug resistance occurs because of the cooperative influence of compensatory and/or adaptive mechanisms and the evolution of rare tumor cells with unique mutations and/or non-genetic modifications to DNA (epigenetic features). Mechanisms of resistance to endocrine treatments, which include changes in growth factor signaling as well as in the estrogen receptor gene or other co-regulators, have guided several new drug combinations. Drs. Schiff and Osborne are currently testing these combinations to identify the most effective regimens for ER+ breast cancer. Similarly, they have identified several resistance mechanisms to anti-HER2 therapies, which include an increase in the activity of the cholesterol synthesis and the ER pathways, mutations in the HER2 protein itself, increased levels of other signaling molecules, and alterations in various components of the patient’s immune system. In 2015-2016, they will continue to investigate these and additional pathways involved in resistance to endocrine and anti-HER2 therapy using various preclinical models and clinical trial samples.


Dr. Schiff is Associate Professor at the Baylor College of Medicine, Sue & Lester Smith Breast Center and the Departments of Medicine and Molecular and Cellular Biology. She is an internationally recognized expert in breast cancer translational research and in preclinical therapeutic models, especially concerning endocrine, HER2, and additional targeted therapies. Dr. Schiff received her PhD in 1992 from Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem and had completed her post-doctoral fellowship at University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio. She joined Baylor College of Medicine in 1999 as a faculty member of the Sue & Lester Smith Breast Center.

Dr. Schiff's research focuses on understanding key signaling pathways in breast cancer and on identifying therapeutic strategies to overcome them. Major interests include molecular aspects of estrogen receptor (ER) and HER2 action in breast cancer, the crosstalk between the ER signaling network and growth factor receptor and cellular kinase pathways, the role of ER co-regulators in breast cancer development and progression, mechanisms of resistance to targeted therapies, and the identification of biomarker and signatures of hormonal and anti-HER2 therapy resistance for therapeutic interventions. Dr. Schiff's research is partly supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute, BCRF, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program.