Zolkiewska is focusing on ADAM12, which a member of the ADAM family of cell-surface disintegrin-metalloproteases. Unlike other current cancer markers -- which are found in both healthy and cancerous tissues -- ADAM 12 is not expressed in healthy human mammary glands. Zolkiewska's work suggests that ADAM12 is induced precisely in breast cancer stem cells.
"We might be able to use ADAM12 to develop targeted therapies to eradicate cancer stem cells with less side effects, which is of great importance," Zolkiewska said. "Ultimately, we hope we can improve the quality of life for breast cancer patients."
The research can provide clinicians with better diagnostic tools for breast cancer, new cancer prevention strategies and improved treatment options. ADAM12 can be used with existing markers for improved detection, isolation and characterization of breast tumor initiating cells in the laboratory.
Long term, Zolkiewska wants to understand exactly how ADAM12 functions in cancer stem cells at the molecular level. She also wants to better understand how breast tumor initiating cells differ from other breast tumor cells.
"We are especially grateful to the Johnson Cancer Research Center at Kansas State University because they have provided us with support for preliminary work," Zolkiewska said. "Preliminary data are absolutely critical to obtain major grants from the National Institutes of Health. The center has really helped us over the years."
Zolkiewska's research team includes Hui Lui, postdoctoral researcher; Sara Duhachek Muggy, doctoral student in biochemistry, Manhattan; and Yue Qi, doctoral student in biochemistry, China. Zolkiewska also is a member of the University of Kansas Cancer Center and collaborates with the University of Kansas Medical Center.
Zolkiewska and her team will p
|Contact: Anna Zolkiewska|
Kansas State University