The May Goldman Shaw Distinguished Professor of Molecular Oncology
Professor, Department of Genetics
Co-Director of the Computational Medicine Program
Faculty Director of the UNC Lineberger Bioinformatics Group
Co-Director of the UNC Lineberger Breast Cancer Research Program
Area of Interest
Breast cancer is a prevalent disease with known clinical and molecular diversity. To address these challenges, my research team uses a multidisciplinary approach based upon genomics, genetics, cancer biology, bioinformatics, epidemiology, and clinical research to improve the outcomes of cancer patients. A major contribution of mine has been the discovery of the intrinsic subtypes of breast cancer. We demonstrated that breast cancers can be divided into at least five molecular subtypes using the “PAM50” assay, with my lab focusing particular attention on the Basal-like subtype, which represents ~80% of Triple Negative Breast Cancers. In addition, we have translated these molecular classifications into the human population; specifically, by using the Carolina Breast Cancer Study (CBCS), we have found that young African American (AA) women are diagnosed with Basal-like Breast Cancers approximately twice as often as their Caucasian counterparts. These results provide a partial explanation of the racial outcomes disparity in the USA between AAs and Caucasians; however, additional studies are needed and are an emphasis of our ongoing research.
Our main research focus includes identifying the drivers of metastatic disease, determining the role of the adaptive immune system in breast tumor progression, and improving therapeutic targeting of TNBC/Basal-like tumors. We use a multitude of experimental and computational approaches, including RNA-sequencing (RNAseq), single-cell approaches, proteomics, DNA exome and whole genome sequencing, cell culture, and mouse models. We use these approaches to discover the causative events of each molecular subtype in human tumors and then model these events in cell lines and mouse models where we can investigate tumor biology and immune system interactions. All of these genomic studies generate large volumes of data, and thus a significant portion of my lab is devoted to computational approaches to use these multi-omics data to develop statistical predictors of tumor responsiveness and long-term patient outcomes.
I am currently a Professor in the Department of Genetics, and have been a faculty member at UNC-Chapel Hill since 2000. I am also the Co-Director of the Computational Medicine Program, Faculty Director of the LCCC Bioinformatics Group, and Co-Director of the LCCC Breast Cancer Research Program. I am a member of the AACR, ASCO, the ALLIANCE Breast Committee, and the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium. My lab has received support from the NIH/NCI, Susan G. Komen, V Foundation for Cancer Research, and Breast Cancer Research Foundation. I have also co-founded three genomics-based biotechnology companies that are bringing new genomic tests into clinical care.
I actively strive to foster a diverse work environment, including people from different cultures and training backgrounds (i.e., biologists, geneticists, bioinformaticians, statisticians, oncologists, surgical oncologists, pathologists, and others). I am actively seeking new graduate students, medical fellows, and postdoctoral fellows, and have opportunities available for both experimentalists and computational scientists.
Awards and Honors
- Award for Excellence in Basic Science Mentoring, UNC School of Medicine Office of Graduate Education, 2023
- AACR Distinguished Lectureship in Breast Cancer Research, 45th San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, 2022
- Highly Cited Researchers (Top 1%), Web of Science, Clarivate Analytics, 2022
- AACR Team Science Award to recognize TCGA Pilot & Current TCGA Project Teams, 2020
- OncLive Giants of Cancer Care Award, 2019
- Association of American Cancer Institutes Distinguished Scientist Award, 2018
- Thomson Reuters Most Highly Cited Researchers (Top 1% in Clinical Medicine), 2014-2020
- Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Basic Research, Susan G. Komen, 2016
- Jill Rose Award for Distinguished Biomedical Research, BRCF, 2016
- Hyman L. Battle Distinguished Cancer Research Award, UNC-Chapel Hill, 2013
- The European Institute of Oncology Breast Cancer Therapy Award, 2012
- Danaher Scientific & Medical Award, Susan G. Komen, 2011
- AACR Outstanding Investigator Award for Breast Cancer Research, 2009
- Ruth and Phillip Hettleman Prize for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement, UNC-Chapel Hill, 2006
News and Stories
Office of Graduate Education recognizes four Lineberger members with mentorship awards
The UNC School of Medicine Office of Graduate Education presented mentorship awards to four UNC Lineberger members, Jessica Bowser, PhD, Sharon Campbell, PhD, Charles Perou, PhD, and Will Valdar, PhD.
Study identifies molecular differences between primary breast cancer and its metastases
A multi-institutional national study has identified unique molecular features responsible for the development and progression of metastatic breast cancer.
Immune system B-cells can help predict HER2-positive breast cancer treatment response
Researchers report specific immune system cells can help them determine whether HER2-positive breast cancer will respond to treatment.
Perou presents AACR Distinguished Lectureship in Breast Cancer Research
Charles Perou, PhD, presented the 2022 AACR Distinguished Lectureship in Breast Cancer Research at the 45th San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.