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BCRF Grantee Since

2004

Donor Recognition

The Delta Air Lines Award

Area(s) of Focus

Sofia D. Merajver, MD, PhD

Professor of Internal Medicine and Epidemiology
Scientific Director, Breast Cancer Research Program
Director, Breast and Ovarian Cancer Risk Evaluation Program
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Current Research

Metastasis is process whereby a tumor cell or cells become detached from the original tumor and form a tumor in a different organ site. It is a multi-step process and most of the time the tumor cells don’t survive. Those that do, however often form a new tumor (a metastatic tumor) that is generally very difficult to treat. The most common sites of breast cancer metastases are bone, lung and brain, but scientists don’t yet understand why breast cancer cells typically migrate to these organs. Dr. Merajver is working to increase our understanding of the molecular processes responsible for the spread of cancer cells and why they migrate to specific organs. She hopes to identify combination therapies that target the multiple steps of metastases. In the coming year, Dr. Merajver will use miniature engineered devices called micro-niches to simulate the environments of the most common organs where breast cancer spreads and to test whether aggressive breast cancer cells are capable of spreading. She will combine these studies with studies on cell motility (movement) and on the effects of drugs on cells growing in the micro-niches, in order to develop rational and effective combination therapies against breast cancer metastases.

Bio

Dr. Sofia Merajver is a physician scientist with a translational focus on integrating molecular genetics of breast cancer with fundamental studies of the dynamics of cancer signal transduction into innovative clinical strategies for women at high risk for breast cancer and cancer patients. As Director of the Breast and Ovarian Cancer Risk Evaluation Program and as Scientific Director of the Breast Oncology Program, she is engaged with clinical translational research that tests molecular, engineering, and educational interventions for cancer patients. She is Director of the University of Michigan Center for Global Health, a University-wide, cross-disciplinary global health translational research project to ameliorate health disparities in the US and globally. Her research in the molecular biology of cancer and aggressive cancer phenotypes encompasses work on the role of rho and other signaling and cytoskeletal proteins in cancer cell invasion and motility, the role of copper in angiogenesis, and metabolism and signal transduction in cancer. Her research laboratory has collaborated with systems biologists and modelers for over 7 years on projects that focused on the fundamental structure of information transmission in cellular signal transduction cascades. This work has brought together physicists, electrical engineers, biological chemists, cell biologists, and oncologists working on different aspects of the problem both from a theoretical standpoint and for the experimental testing of the models’ predictions. In the Merajver laboratory, teams of molecular biologists are working alongside faculty and students in mathematics, bioinformatics, and engineering to model and understand the details of single cell motion and the key signaling intermediates that determine the switch between motion and proliferation, both structurally and metabolically.

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