Jodie Fleming

Jodie Fleming, PhD, is a UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center member and Assistant Professor at North Carolina Central University in the Department of Biological and Biomedical Sciences. Fleming Lab's goal is to characterize the role of the tissue microenvironment on the behavior and function of normal cells, as well as determine its role in the development and progression of cancer.

Jodie Fleming

Assistant Professor
North Carolina Central University
Breast Cancer

1801 Fayetteville Street, Mary Townes Sci Complex Rm 2247
Durham, NC 27707

Area of interest

Dr. Fleming has extensive training and experience in breast cancer cell biology and tumorigenesis, as well as in the characterization of breast cancer stem cells. Her research focuses on identifying the mechanisms by which highly metastatic basal-like breast carcinomas tend to predominate in premenopausal African-American women, and to identify candidate targets for therapeutics. Through an integrative, multidisciplinary research program, Dr. Fleming intends to elucidate characteristics of the microenvironment in premenopausal breast tissue and will integrate novel advances in the field of tumor microenvironment with cancer health disparities research.

Dr. Fleming has extensive background in studying the effects of the tissue microenvironment on cell behavior in vitro and in vivo with specific training and skill in breast cancer research. In addition to developing 2D and 3D in vitro culture model systems during her tenure at the NCI, Dr. Fleming has developed novel humanized mouse model systems for testing therapeutics in vivo and been at the forefront of identifying factors associated with cancer health disparities and the tumor microenvironment, and continues to actively publish in high-impact journals in the fields of breast cancer and mammary gland physiology. She recently published a report outlining the significant effects of the microenvironment on the growth, vascularization, and gene methylation patterns of tumors in a breast cancer xenograft model, as well as published the first report to demonstrate fundamental differences in the breast microenvironment of premenopausal African- and Caucasian-American women, and its effects on tumor cell behavior.

Dr. Fleming recently joined the faculty at North Carolina Central University in August 2011 as a tenure track Assistant Professor of Biology. She was awarded a pilot project on the NCCU-LCCC U54 Partnership in Cancer Research, which has been instrumental to establishing her translational research program. Her interactions with the LCCC members, and especially Dr. Shelly Earp, have been most inspiring and valuable. During her short time at NCCU, Dr. Fleming has been successful in obtaining additional grants to support her work, including an R21 with the NCI.  One of Dr. Fleming’s research projects focuses is on developing novel therapeutics for triple negative breast cancer. To this end, Dr. Fleming has identified a natural bacterial toxin that selectively targets breast cancer cells and induced cell death. She has sought out the assistance and mentorship of Dr. Charles Perou on this project. Dr. Perou is an internationally recognized expert in breast cancer research and cancer genetics, a Professor of Genetics and Pathology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and a member of the Cancer Genetics and Breast Cancer Research Programs at the UNC LCCC. As a mentor, Dr. Perou provides Dr. Fleming with both a basic and clinical perspectives, as well as assists her in obtaining the materials and tools necessary to perform the proposed research.

Another research project, in collaboration with Dr. Melissa Troester (LCCC member and School of Public Health, UNC, Chapel Hill), involved investigating the biological pathways that may lead to increased risk of basal-like breast cancer. Together, they have observed that African-American women have altered protein expression and hormone metabolism in their normal breast tissue. Specifically, hepatic fibrosis signaling is altered in African-American breast tissue. Their current studies test the hypothesis that African-American stroma over-expresses components of the hepatic fibrosis pathway, leading to increased risk of aggressive tumors. This research addresses breast cancer disparities and hypothesizes that HGF signaling plays a role in basal-like and/or African-American breast cancers. Observational studies using patient specimens to understand differences in this pathway by both race and breast cancer subtype, together with experimental studies to understand the role of this pathway in cellular phenotypes will provide important and novel insight into the biological basis of racial disparities. This research has immediate translational implications based on the availability of MET inhibitors in the treatment of other solid tumors.

In addition to her research, Dr. Fleming is fully committed and excited to teach, mentor, and train students and postdoctoral research fellows in research techniques and promote their development into successful independent investigators spearheading their own research programs. She often uses her unique transition from an Animal Scientist to a Breast Cancer Biologist to connect with, inspire, and train future scientists. Estimating the past five years as a marker of current experience, she has successfully trained over 10 students in basic laboratory and small animal surgical techniques. Each of the students, including undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, graduate, and postdoctoral fellows have contributed to a peer-reviewed publication and/or poster presentation at a national meeting, and successfully continued their career in biomedical research through acceptance to graduate or medical school. In addition to laboratory techniques, Dr. Fleming is a strong advocate for the training and retention of women in science. She is a founding member and executive council member for the Council on the Status of Women at NCCU, as well as a member of Women in Bio and the Association for Women in Science.

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