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BCRF Grantee Since


Area(s) of Focus

Steffi Oesterreich, PhD

Professor of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology
Director of Education, Women's Cancer Research Center
Magee Women's Research Institute
University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Current Research

Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC) is the second most common histological subtype of breast cancer. While the majority of ILCs are estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) and typically have a better prognosis than other invasive breast cancers, ILC is clearly very different from IDC (invasive ductal carcinoma), and its unique biology is poorly understood.  Recent studies, including the analysis of ILC within The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA,) have shown that ILC is not a only visibily distinct but also a molecularly distinct disease. The goal of Dr. Oesterreich’s BCRF research is to characterize ILC with the goals of better understanding resistance to anti-estrogen therapies and developing more personalized treatment strategies for this group of patients.  Recent results from the Oesterreich group suggest that the estrogen receptor regulates a unique set of programs in ILC making this type of breast cancer more resistant to anti-estrogen therapy. The team identified other protein signaling factors that may be targets to improve response to treatment and are continuing to pursue these studies.  They are also using clinical ILC samples to determine whether those pathways cause breast cancer recurrence and metastases in patients.  They are in the process of comparing the gene expression in tumors from patients whose cancers recurred to those who did not and expect to identify genes and pathways associated with recurrence. These studies are leading to a better understanding of a relatively understudied type of breast cancer.


The main interest of Dr. Oesterreich’s research is to further our understanding of hormone action in women’s cancer in order to use this knowledge for improved diagnosis and endocrine treatment. Her studies have focused on breast cancer and in receptor action in ovarian cancer. Her lab studies how the estrogen receptor (ER) functions, how its activity is regulated by diverse signaling pathways and through coregulator proteins, and if and how these mechanisms are perturbed in cancer cells. The Oesterreich lab is interested in novel concepts of ER action, such as its role in repression of gene transcription and its role in epigenetic marks in the genome. Dr. Oesterreich’s lab has also a strong interest in situ and invasive lobular disease, with a focus on estrogen and antiestrogen response. In her role as Director of Training in the Women's Cancer Research Center, she is interested in providing outstanding training opportunities to the next generation of women's cancer researchers.