Melissa Troester

PhD, School of Public Health, UNC-Chapel Hill, Cancer Epidemiology, Breast Cancer

Melissa Troester

School of Public Health
UNC-Chapel Hill
Cancer Epidemiology
Breast Cancer

2104H McGavran-Greenberg

Area of interest

Troester lab studies breast microenvironment and stromal-epithelial interactions in breast cancer. In 2009, our research found that normal tissue adjacent to breast tumors displays activated wound responses, including gene expression changes consistent with angiogenesis, extracellular matrix remodeling, and re-epithelialization. These data provided genomic evidence to support the idea of tumors as ?wounds that do not heal? and showed that the vast majority of cancers are associated with substantial genomic changes in the normal surrounding tissue. However, we subsequently observed that the changes in the normal tissue varies considerably from person to person. Some of this interindividual variation can be explained by tumor characteristics, and some of this variation reflects the unique genetic and environmental history of the individual. The Troester lab is building on interdisciplinary foundations in epidemiology, genomics, and biomarker development to better understand how normal breast tissue variation in cellular composition and gene expression relates to breast cancer risk and progression.

Using complementary approaches ? observational studies of human biospecimens along with experimental studies of stromal-epithelial interactions ? our lab is contributing to understanding of the variation in normal breast tissue composition, gene expression, and phenotype. We have developed a coculture model system for studying stromal-epithelial interactions under experimental conditions and we are using genomic data and phenotypic data from this system to better understand patient data. Our lab, in collaboration with Dr. Keith Amos, also initiated the Normal Breast Study, an unique observational study of histologically normal breast tissue begun at UNC Hospitals in 2009. This study collects demographic and clinical data along with well-annotated biospecimens from ethnically diverse women undergoing breast surgery. Participants include patients having elective surgery, patients with benign to premalignant breast lesions, to patients with invasive and/or metastatic breast cancer. Together with our experimental work, these studies in human populations are leading to novel insights about the biology and epidemiology of normal breast as it relates to breast cancer risk and progression.

Awards and Honors

Troester lab is supported by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), and Avon Foundation. Dr. Troester has been a recipient of a SPORE Career Development Award from 2008-2010. Our research is supported by a 2010 Innovation Award from the University Cancer Research Fund. We are a participating research lab in the NIEHS/NCI Breast Cancer and Environment Research Program (BCERP) Windows of Susceptibility program, investigating the links between pregnancy, obesity and basal-like breast cancer.

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