Charles M. Perou
Department of Genetics
Area of interest
Dr. Perou’s research crosses the disciplines of cancer biology, genomics, bioinformatics, epidemiology and the clinical treatment of cancer patients. His major contribution to the field has been in the genomic characterization of the diversity of human tumors, which resulted in the discovery of the Intrinsic Subtypes of Breast Cancer. This genomic classification also first identified the Basal-like/Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Subtype, which is now an important biological point of emphasis in his lab. This genomic-based classification is now being used to help physicians better understand why some cancers do, or do not, respond to standard therapies, and to begin to tailor treatment to each patient’s disease.
Dr. Perou and his colleagues demonstrated that breast tumors can be classified into five molecular subtypes. He is currently elucidating the genetic causes that give rise to each subtype, in part through his leadership of The Cancer Genome Atlas Breast Cancer Working Group. In addition, his lab is modeling these events in genetically engineered mouse models, establishing primary tumor xenografts, and then using these complementary animal models to investigate the efficacy of new drugs and new drug combinations. Dr. Perou has also translated these molecular finding to a much wider patient population. Specifically, using a North Carolina population-based study (Carolina Breast Cancer Study), he and his colleagues found that pre-menopausal African American women are diagnosed with Basal-like tumors approximately twice as often as their Caucasian counterparts, thus providing genomic mechanisms that help to explain racial outcomes disparities.
Dr. Perou has authored more than 200 peer reviewed articles, and is an inventor on 2 patents. His lab has received support from the NIH/NCI, Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Komen Foundation, and V Foundation for Cancer Research. He is the Faculty Co-Director of the LCCC Bioinformatics Group, and Co-Director of the UNC Breast Cancer Research Program. He is a member of the ALLIANCE Breast Committee, and of the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium. He is also the co-founder of two genomics-based biotechnology companies (BioClassifier LLC, and GeneCentric Diagnostics), both of which are focused on developing genomic assays into robust cancer diagnostics. He earned his BA in Biology from Bates College, his PhD in Cell Biology from the University of Utah, and performed his postdoctoral work in the laboratory of David Botstein (then at Stanford University). He is currently a Distinguished Professor of Genetics, and Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, and has been a faculty member at UNC since 2000.
Awards and Honors
AACR Outstanding Investigator Award for Breast Cancer Research (2009)
Danaher Scientific & Medical Award, a Susan G. Komen Award (2011)
The May Goldman Shaw Distinguished Professor of Molecular Oncology at UNC (2011)
The European Institute of Oncology Breast Cancer Therapy Award (2012)
Hyman L. Battle Distinguished Cancer Research Award from UNC (2013)