Phone: (608) 263-8465
RESEARCH INTERESTS -Development of imaging-based biomarkers of disease progression in the breast tumor microenvironment (Former Keely Lab member)
Member – UW Carbone Cancer Center (Tumor Microenvironment Program)
My research focuses on the development and characterization of biomarkers identified by light microscopy that aid in the diagnosis of disease progression in breast cancer. At the moment, this primarily entails the use of second harmonic generation (SHG) microscopy to examine the collagen ECM in samples from human patients. Through this practice, over the years I have published evidence for the existence of tumor associated collagen signatures (TACS) that predict survival rates in patients with invasive disease. This paradigm has been expanded to measure over a dozen new features of the collagen matrix, and at earlier stages (DCIS; ductal carcinoma in situ) of breast disease. Through numerous collaborations, we are able to obtain samples from various stages of breast cancer, but also, most interestingly, from normal non-diseased patients where we hope to identify underlying root traits in the matrix which predict future disease occurrence and progression.
A large component of the work I do is collaborative; the biomarkers I hope to identify are discovered through the use of advanced custom imaging hardware and software at LOCI (Laboratory for Optical and Computational Instrumentation) here on the UW campus, where I play a major role as a “beta tester” of their new equipment and programs. Therefore, I spend a great deal of time acting as a consultant to the engineers and computer scientists at LOCI to better develop their new tools.
Through this collaboration with LOCI, we have access to state of the art imaging facilities where we use multiphoton fluorescence excitation to measure the intensity, lifetime, and spectra of endogenous fluorophores in cells. The two that are most prominent, NADH and FAD, are metabolites involved in glucose metabolism, a process known to be altered in all cancers, as well as in aging. Through collaborations, we are finding alterations in the fluorescent properties of these molecules in women who are at high risk of developing cancer, as well as in studies of aging and caloric restriction in primates.
Throughout the years, I have had a wide variety of training in several subject areas. My graduate school and postdoc years were focused on the regulation, structure, expression, and function of membrane ion channels and the downstream impact of second messenger molecule signaling (Ca2+, cAMP, protein kinases) in muscle and nerve cells. As such, I am also a trained electophysiologist and have experience with protein and molecular biology techniques.