Associate Professor, North Carolina Central University
Area of interest
Approximately 15-20% of breast cancers have a triple-negative phenotype (TNBC), i.e. they lack expression of the estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR) and these cells do not over-express Her2. This type of breast cancer correlates with a very aggressive cancer, poor prognosis and aggressive relapses. TNBC occurs at a higher incidence in young African-American women. Currently available breast cancer therapies targeting ER or Her2 are ineffective against this sub-type of breast cancer. Thus, new strategies are urgently needed for TNBC to reduce mortality and increase survival time. One focus of our current research is the identification and validation of novel kinase targets critical for tumor growth and metastasis of TNBC. The kinase MEKK2 (MAP3K2) may play a critical role in breast cancer tumor growth and metastasis. Thus, we are identifying and optimizing small molecule kinase inhibitors for this kinase. We are also using a chemical biology approach to target and kill cancer cells that have lost expression of the tumor suppressor PTEN, which is frequently mutated in breast cancer. We are also interested in drug discovery for novel TNBC-relevant targets and enhancers of existing cancer drugs. Another related area of general interest is drug repurposing for breast cancer. Drug repurposing involves the identification of existing FDA-approved drugs for use in a novel therapeutic indication. Discovering novel combinations of drugs for breast cancer (drug combination discovery) is also of interest. We seek to use novel approaches to discover and characterize new combinations of existing drugs for the improved treatment of breast cancer.