Distinguished University Professor
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Bronx, New York
Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) comprises approximately 15-20 percent of all breast cancers. These aggressive tumors are treated with a cocktail of chemotherapy drugs. Often in drug development, promising compounds are selected for development based on their ability to suppress cancer cell division. Suppression of cell division can result in tumor cell senescence (dormancy), that while initially suppressing tumor growth can result in tumor recurrence when dormant cells are “revived” and begin to grow again. As an alternative to this approach, Drs. Horwitz and McDaid have developed a novel drug-development program to screen for compounds with potent anti-cancer activity in TNBC, coupled with low risk for the induction of tumor cell senescence. To date, they have tested many novel anti-cancer drugs and identified four potential candidates. The researchers continue studies to optimize their anti-cancer efficacy in laboratory models of aggressive disease. Complementing this work, they are also studying how proteins secreted from cancer cells interact with immune cells to promote a chemoresistant tumor microenvironment. They have identified a component of the cytoskeleton (the cellullar scaffolding) that facilitates transport of these proteins and have shown that this process is hyperactive in cancer cells, and may be therapuetically targetable. They are continuing their studies in this area to determine the underlying mechanism of this observation.
Dr. Susan Band Horwitz is a Distinguished University Professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She grew up in Boston and after graduating from Bryn Mawr College, received her PhD in Biochemistry from Brandeis University.
Dr. Horwitz has had a continuing interest in natural products as a source of new drugs for the treatment of cancer. Her laboratory has made Taxol, a drug isolated from the yew plant, Taxus brevifolia, a major focus of its work and today it is given to over a million patients. Dr. Horwitz' research played an important role in encouraging the development of Taxol by the National Cancer Institute.
Dr. Horwitz and her collaborators demonstrated that the effects of Taxol were due to a novel interaction between the drug and microtubules that identified Taxol as a prototype of a new class of anti-tumor drugs. Dr. Horwitz also has made significant contributions to our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying Taxol resistance in tumor cells.