D. Joseph Jerry
Our laboratory studies the mechanisms regulating risk and resistance to breast cancer. Hormonal exposures during pregnancy engage epigenetic mechanisms that can reduce the risk of breast cancer by as much as one half. Genetic risk factors also are important determinants. Through the use of animal models and human breast tissues, our lab is defining the genetic and cellular basis for susceptibility to breast cancer and the early lesions found in premalignant breast lesions. These pathways provide new biomarkers to more accurately identify patients who will benefit from therapies as well as new targets for therapies to prevent breast cancer.
The p53 tumor suppressor protein is a major focus of the laboratory because its genome surveillance activity can be enhanced by hormonal stimuli and it is a critical pathway preventing cancer. The frequent mutation of p53 in breast cancer reflects its critical role. Although estrogen stimulates proliferation, it also potentiates the p53-mediated apoptosis. Both estrogenic compounds and Activin affect stem cell populations and reduce the incidence of mammary tumors in mice. However, naturally-occurring variants in homology-directed DNA repair have revealed a profound role for this pathway in determining risk of mammary tumors.
To facilitate translation of these studies we have collaborated with patients and clinicians at Baystate Medical Center to create a dynamic Breast Cancer Patient Registry. The patients are consented for use of tissues, clinical follow-up and have provided lifestyle information in a questionnaire. The database has a growing resource of gene expression and genomic data on patients as well as viable cells and tissues for research. We have developed a gene expression signature to aid diagnosis of high risk premalignant breast lesions better defining which patients should consider preventive treatments while also providing insights into the molecular basis for premalignancy in the human breast.
Learn more at www.vasci.umass.edu/research-faculty/d-joseph-jerry
- MS Purdue University
- PhD The Pennsylvania State University
- Postdoctoral training: Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, Maine; Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas