Suzanne E Wardell
Assistant Research Professor of Pharmacology & Cancer Biology

Throughout my career in science, my work has focused in aspects of steroid hormone (progesterone, estrogen, or androgen) receptor activity in breast and prostate cancers. These interests include not only mechanistic studies of receptor activity in treatment naive tumors, but also the role of these receptors in the evolution of resistance to current therapies.

Despite the development of improved therapies, breast cancer remains a leading cause of mortality in women. While a majority of breast cancers are estrogen receptor (ER) positive and respond to endocrine therapies such as tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors, as many as 50% of patients experience relapse and progression. Recent data has confirmed continued reliance of these cancers on ER signaling, validating this receptor as a therapeutic target even in a relapsed/metastatic setting. The focus of a majority of my work in breast cancer has been the mechanistic evaluation of methods to target ER activity in this setting of resistance, either through the development of improved receptor antagonists or through the identification of targets downstream of, or impinging upon, ER activity that can serve as secondary targets in this setting. 

Similarly, the androgen receptor (AR) remains a therapeutic target in prostate cancer throughout treatment progression to end stage prostate cancer. Although several AR antagonists have been developed and approved for the treatment of prostate cancer, AR overexpression, as well as mutation and/or truncation, are observed clinically and have been shown mechanistically to render the current AR antagonists ineffective in the advanced prostate cancer setting. As with our work in breast cancer, we have identified pathways downstream of AR that are essential to prostate cancer progression, and our current work is intended to devise treatment regimens that will be effective in lieu of, or together with, AR antagonists.

In my role as a research assistant professor, I have conducted several animal studies evaluating next-to-clinic therapeutics in clinically predictive models of advanced breast and prostate cancer that I have developed throughout the past several years of studies. The entry of some of these therapeutics, or of mechanistically related molecules, into clinical trials in these patient populations validates this approach.

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