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BCRF Grantee Since


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

Very aggressive breast cancers such as inflammatory breast cancer, triple negative breast cancer, and other rapidly progressive breast cancers have acquired the ability to adapt the wiring of their information network inside cells to promote cancer cell motility and the cancer’s ability to survive in diverse organ locations. By studying these networks, Dr. Merijver and her team have devised potential new avenues to attack aggressive cancer cells when they are moving, by interfering with proteins that regulate cell motility and how cancer cells utilize energy. They are particularly interested in understanding which specific cells within early aggressive tumors are already equipped to form effective metastases. To study this they have designed and are testing simple synthetic devices that mimic the organs of the body where breast cancers typically spread. By placing live cancer cells from breast cancer patients inside the devices they can study which cells are able to spread to distant sites, even before a tumor would be clinlically detectable. Their goal is to use these laboratory tools to help guide therapies that prevent metastases in women with aggressive breast cancers in the US and worldwide, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa where healthcare resources are scarce.


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. From 2010-2013 she served as 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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