Funded by Hooters of America, LLC
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women worldwide. Metastatic disease is incurable and causes 90% of breast cancer-related deaths. Current treatments for breast cancer help patients live longer, but they have no effect once the tumor is in the brain. Moreover, by prolonging survival they increase the risk of brain metastasis over time.
Primary breast tumors secrete factors that travel through the blood and facilitate seeding and growth of new distant tumors by inducing changes in the structure of other organs. The proposed research will look at how regulatory T (Treg) cells, a type of immune cells heavily present in primary tumors, support changes in the brain tissue that allow brain metastasis to develop. To model this, we will utilize genetically engineered mouse models and surgical manipulations like the ones occurring in human breast cancer patients to investigate how the presence of regulatory T cell affect brain metastasis formation over time. Specifically, we will assess the changes in cell composition and structure of the brain tissue before metastasis develops in mice with and without Treg cells. In addition, we will evaluate changes in blood circulating factors, and establish the requirement of cells from the bone marrow and specific cytokines for the remodeling of the brain. By learning more about what happens to the brain tissue before metastases form, we hope to improve our chances of developing therapeutic strategies to prevent them.