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BCRF Grantee Since


Donor Recognition

The Play for P.I.N.K. Award

Area(s) of Focus

Tan A. Ince, MD, PhD

Scientific Director,
Live Tumor Culture Core and Tissue Bank Core Facility
Director, Tumor Stem Cell Division,
Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute
Associate Professor, Department of Pathology
University of Miami
Miami, Florida

Current Research

The breast epithelium is typically described as being composed of two types of cells; luminal cells that line the inside of the breast ducts and myoepithelial cells that line the outside of the ducts. These classifications are used to characterize tumor cell origins and to design therapeutic strategies. However, work by Dr. Ince has revealed that the normal breast consists of many different cell types and that tumors that arise in different types of normal cells have very different outcomes. In the course of his BCRF research, Dr. Ince also discovered that each breast cell subtype is associated with a specific pattern of hormone receptor (estrogen, androgen and Vitamin D) expression. These hormones are known to play important roles in breast cancer and treatment response, and this discovery holds promise for the development of new personalized treatment of breast tumors using multi-hormone combinations.


Dr. Ince received his PhD in Pharmacology from Cornell and completed clinical training at Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Harvard Medical School. Dr. Ince was a visiting clinical scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2000-2007, where he developed a new cell culture nutrient medium that is now widely used to grow human breast and ovary cells. In 2010, he was recruited to the Braman Family Breast Cancer Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Dr. Ince's research focuses on the role of normal cell-of-origin in determining tumor phenotype and development of culture systems for in vitro culture of primary human tissues and tumors. The use of normal cell types as a reference to classify tumors, however, has not been widely emulated in solid tumors, partly due to a more limited understanding of epithelial cell differentiation. Dr. Ince used a new and innovative multiplexed immunofluorescence technology to monitor multiple markers simultaneously in the very same cells. Based on the study Dr. Ince and colleagues described eleven new normal breast subtypes and showed that each human tumor is similar to one of these normal cell types. These results led to new normal cell type based classification of breast cancers that has important implications for understanding breast cancer prognostics and how breast cancer is treated. In brief, the results of this study indicate that breast tumors arising from different normal cells have significantly different clinical outcomes and drug response, and should be classified and treated differently.