Areas of Research
- Breast Cancer
The Debeb Laboratory focuses on understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms of breast cancer dissemination to the brain, and on investigating the molecular and biological processes underlying the aggressive pathobiology of inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), an aggressive variant of breast cancer. We have established preclinical mouse models of brain metastasis to uncover novel mechanisms and test the efficacy of new therapeutic agents. We conduct both basic laboratory investigation and translational breast cancer research with an overarching goal of developing novel therapeutic strategies to improve survival of patients with aggressive breast cancer.
Molecular determinants of brain metastasis
Despite advances in treatment of primary breast cancer and systemic malignancies, the prognosis for patients with brain metastases continues to be dismal. Understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying metastatic dissemination to the brain is critical for the development of novel anti-brain metastasis therapies. Brain metastasis is exceedingly common in patients with inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), a very aggressive variant of breast cancer. Our lab has developed novel preclinical mouse models of brain metastasis and used these models to identify key drivers of brain metastasis and test the efficacy of therapeutic interventions. Current efforts in the lab include characterizing novel drivers of brain metastasis; developing mouse models of brain metastasis; understanding breast cancer cell-astrocyte interaction in brain metastasis colonization; designing new therapeutic approaches to treat or prevent brain metastasis; and evaluation of serum biomarkers to identify patients at high risk of developing brain metastasis.
Understanding the unique pathobiology of inflammatory breast cancer (IBC)
Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is a rare and very aggressive variant of breast cancer with a rapid onset and a strong propensity to metastasize to distant organs. IBC is also a health disparity disease; African-American women have higher incidence of IBC and they are more likely to present with metastatic disease and poor survival. Given that IBC confers a grave prognosis there is a need to define the mechanisms that dictate the unique pathobiology of this aggressive disease in order to develop new and effective therapeutic targets. Current efforts in the lab include dissecting the role of E-cadherin and cleaved E-cadherin fragments in IBC tumor progression and metastasis; investigating the mechanisms of NDRG1 in IBC aggressiveness and therapy resistance; development of new therapeutic strategies for IBC metastases; identifying biomarkers of aggressiveness in the serum of patients with IBC.