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BCRF Grantee Since


Donor Recognition

The Smart Circle/RGS Labs International Award

Area(s) of Focus

Stephen J. Weiss, MD

E. Gifford and Love Barnett Upjohn Professor of Internal Medicine and Oncology
Professor, Cell and Molecular Biology Program
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Current Research

Normal breast cells (mammary epithelial cells) grow slowly and in a highly regulated fashion and are, by definition, confined to breast tissue. However, during embryonic development and in puberty, normal epithelial cells grow rapidly and they move through different tissues. Research suggests that cancer cells inappropriately reactivate genetic programs that are normally used only during stages of development. Work in Dr. Weiss’s laboratory has identified key molecules that appear to play dual roles in controlling the growth and movement of normal mammary cells as well as the abnormal growth and invasive features of breast cancer cells. These molecules, called Snail1 and MT1-MMP, may be important therapeutic targets in breast cancer growth and metastasis. In the coming year, Dr. Weiss and his team will expand these studies to define the role of these factors in regulating breast cancer initiation, growth and metastasis.


After completing his postdoctoral training at Washington University, Dr. Weiss was recruited to the University of Michigan in 1982 where he assumed the rank of Professor in 1988. In 1991, he was named as the first recipient of the Upjohn Professorship in Oncology, a position that he continues to hold. Dr. Weiss has also served as the Director of the Molecular Mechanisms of Disease Program and the Chief of the Division of Molecular Medicine & Genetics in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan. In 2006, he joined the Life Sciences Institute as a Research Professor. He is a member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation, the Association of American Physicians, Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, and has served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Dr. Weiss’ research efforts have long focused on the mechanisms used by breast cancer cells to remodel tissue structures during tumor progression, invasion and metastasis. His studies on the roles of transcription factors and proteolytic enzymes (particularly Snail family members and the membrane-anchored matrix metalloproteinases, respectively) in regulating these pathologic events in vitro and in vivo have appeared in top-ranked journals such as Science, Nature, Genes & Development, the Journal of Cell Biology, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Cell.