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Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer CenterVanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center


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Program Leaders

Carlos L. Arteaga, M.D.

Ingrid Mayer, M.D., M.S.C.I.

Breast Cancer

The Breast Cancer Program (BC) includes 28 members from 11 academic departments from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (VUSM), School of Nursing, and School of Engineering. Program members have expertise in cellular signaling and molecular biology, breast pathology, genomic profiling, biomedical informatics, medical, surgical, and radiation oncology, clinical trial design, epidemiology, and supportive care studies.

Scientific Goals

The program has a strong emphasis on breast epithelial cell and molecular biology, basic science driven translational and clinical research, and molecular epidemiology. Main scientific goals of the BC include:

  1. To identify and stimulate meritorious and fundable basic science-based and translational/clinical research in breast cancer

  2. To enhance communication among program members and disseminate new data and novel approaches

  3. To mentor and train investigators in translational research in breast cancer

  4. To seek and establish research partnerships with other academic institutions, Pharma and Biotech to enhance the program’s translational goals

About the Program Leaders

Carlos L. Arteaga, M.D., obtained his medical degree at the University of Guayaquil in Ecuador. He trained in Internal Medicine and Medical Oncology at Emory University and the University of Texas Health Sciences Center San Antonio, respectively. He joined Vanderbilt in 1989 where he now holds the Donna S. Hall Chair in Breast Cancer Research and serves as Professor of Medicine and Cancer Biology. Dr. Arteaga is also Associate Director for Clinical Research and Director of the Breast Cancer Research Program of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC). He is also the founding director or the new Center for Cancer Targeted Therapies at VICC. He has over 250 publications in the areas of signaling by growth factor receptors and oncogenes in breast tumor cells, development of targeted therapies and biomarkers of drug action and resistance, and investigator-initiated clinical trials in breast cancer. Since 2002, he has directed the NCI-funded Vanderbilt Breast Cancer SPORE where he co-leads several investigator-initiated clinical trials. His research is funded by the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program, Stand Up 2 Cancer (SU2C) and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Breast Cancer Research foundations. He is a member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation (1998) and the Association of American Physicians (2005). He served as member of the Experimental Therapeutics-2 NIH Study Section (1998-2003), the NCI Board of Scientific Counselors (1999-2004), NCI Parent Subcommittee A for review of Cancer Centers (2004-2008), the Breast Core Committee of the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG), and the Board of Directors of the American Association for Cancer Research (2004-2007). He co-chaired the former Developmental Therapeutics Committee of ECOG and chaired the AACR Special Conferences Committee (2002-2008). Arteaga is the recipient of the 2003 AACR Richard & Hinda Rosenthal Award, a 2007-2017 ACS Clinical Research Professor Award, the 2009 Gianni Bonadonna Award from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the 2011 Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation. As of 2012, he serves in the Scientific Advisory Board of the Komen Foundation. He has chaired the AACR Special Conference ‘Advances in Breast Cancer Research’ since 2003 and has served as AACR co-chair of the annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium since 2009. He is Deputy Editor of Clinical Cancer Research and member of the Editorial Board of Cancer Cell and six other peer-reviewed journals. He serves on the advisory boards of several academic Breast Cancer Programs and NCI-designated Cancer Centers. In 2013, he was voted by the AACR members as President Elect of the American Association for Cancer Research, the largest cancer research organization in the world.

Ingrid Mayer, M.D., M.S.C.I., graduated medical school in 1993 at the Federal University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. She completed her Internal Medicine Residency and Chief Residency in 1998 at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she also did her Hematology/ Oncology Fellowship training from 1998 through 2001. During this time, she worked in the laboratory setting with MAPK signaling pathway in Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia, for which she received an American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Young Investigator Award.

In 2003, Dr. Mayer became an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology/ Oncology at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, where she completed a Master of Science in Clinical Investigation (MSCI) Program in May 2006. She has obtained intramural support through the Vanderbilt Physician Scientist Development (VPSD) Award Program and a Cancer Center Grant Support (CCSG) Award to identify relevant tumor antigens/targets in breast cancer tumor samples. She has intensively worked in translational projects related to targeted therapies in breast cancer, obtaining a Pilot Project from the Breast Cancer SPORE in 2005. She has also obtained a Breast Cancer Research Foundation American Association for Cancer Research (BCRF-AACR) Grant for Translational Breast Cancer Research to explore combined endocrine and ErbB inhibition in ER+/HER2+ breast cancers in 2007, a K23 Career Development Award to explore targeted therapies in breast cancer, and is also co-Leader in three of the four research projects of the NCI-funded Vanderbilt Breast Cancer Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE; Carlos Arteaga, Director).

Dr. Mayer is a key component of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) Breast Cancer Program, where her role is to implement and conduct investigator-initiated, mechanism-based clinical and translational trials in breast cancer, focusing in novel diagnostic and therapeutic approaches. Administratively, she directs the Clinical Core of the VICC Breast Cancer SPORE. She is a member of the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) Breast Committee, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Breast Cancer Panel of Experts, and had served in the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Scientific Review Committee for two years.

Areas Of Program Expertise

BC members have expertise over a wide range of disciplines from molecular and cell biology to translational and clinical research in breast cancer. These are listed below:

  • Vandana Abramson, M.D. A recent recruit from the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Abramson is a breast cancer clinical investigator with expertise in Phase I development of new agents and the use of pharmacodynamic endpoints to assess drug action. She recently obtained a Bonadonna Fellowship Award from ASCO (2009). Her main role is to generate, implement, and lead IITs based in BC.

  • Carlos L. Arteaga, M.D. This laboratory focuses on the role of TGFβ and ErbB receptor signaling in mammary gland development and transformation. There is also emphasis on discovery of biomarkers of drug action and mechanisms of resistance to anti-oncogene (HER2, PI3K, IGF-IR) and endocrine therapies in breast cancer using established human cell lines, transgenic mouse models of mammary development and cancer, and primary tumor tissues from patients enrolled in BC-based pre-surgical and neoadjuvant IITs.

  • Anuradha (Bapsi) Chakravarthy, M.D. Dr. Chakravarthy is a radiation oncologist who serves as co-Director of the Tissue Core of the Breast Cancer SPORE. She is co-investigator in several IITs focused on discovery of pharmacodynamic and non-invasive imaging predictors of response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy.

  • Rebecca S. Cook, Ph.D. Dr. Cook has expertise in using the applications of cell biology and developmental biology to interrogate stages of cancer formation and malignant progression in mouse models. Her expertise with genetically engineered mouse models of breast cancer has led to the generation of physiologically meaningful results that mimic precise genetic events occurring in human breast cancers. There is emphasis on early events in breast development that contribute to future formation of cancers, particularly those events influenced by the ErbB receptor signaling pathway..
  • William D. Dupont, Ph.D. Dr. Dupont has collaborated for the past 32 years with David Page, M.D. and more recently with Jeffrey Smith, M.D., Ph.D., both BC members, in the discovery of histopathologic, genetic and molecular risk factors for breast cancer in women with benign breast disease. Their approach to classifying benign breast disease has impacted the clinical management of these lesions and their findings have been extensively replicated by other investigators.

  • Ana M. Grau, M.D., is an Associate Professor of Surgical Oncology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Vanderbilt Breast Center at One Hundred Oaks. Dr. Grau's clinical practice encompasses breast disease with a primary focus on breast cancer. Her research interests include both clinical and translational breast cancer-related research.

  • John G. Huff, M.D. Dr. Huff joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 2007 as Director of Breast Imaging and Imaging Director of the Breast Center. He has a special interest in the multidisciplinary approach to breast cancer management as well as advanced breast imaging including magnetic resonance mammography.

  • Mark C. Kelley, M.D. Dr. Kelley is Director of the Division of Surgical Oncology. He is a key co-investigator in several BC-based investigator-initiated trials. In collaboration with colleagues in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, he is involved in the development of optical spectroscopic methods for the intra-operative demarcation of breast tumors.

  • Ingrid A. Mayer, M.D. Dr. Mayer is a clinical investigator who completed the Master of Science in Clinical Investigation (MSCI) program at Vanderbilt in May 2006. Her role is to implement and conduct investigator-initiated, mechanism-based clinical and translational trials focusing on HER2, PI3K, and IGF-IR pathways as mechanisms of resistance in HER2-overexpressing, triple-negative, and hormone-sensitive breast cancers. She is a member of the ECOG Breast Committee and has experience as principal investigator in design, conduct, and analysis of several Phase I, II, and III clinical trials based in BC.
  • Ingrid M. Meszoely, M.D. Dr. Meszoely serves as Clinical Director of VICC’s Breast Center at One Hundred Oaks, the primary point of tissue/body fluids collection and entry of patient accrual to our IITs. In that capacity, she oversees the clinical trials and tissue collection support personnel at the Breast Center, which is supported by BC members’ extramural funding. In addition, she is PI of one of our SPORE-based IITs and serves as our liaison with the NSABP, a premier national surgical group to which this trial (BRE0776) is being extended.

  • Harold L. Moses, M.D. Since co-discovering the tumor suppressor/promoter TGFβ in the early 1980s, this laboratory has continued to be at the forefront of this area of investigation. This group utilizes elegant transgenic mouse models expressing active TGFβ1 or dominant-negative type II TGFβ receptor (TβRII) under the control of conditional tissue-specific promoters, either in epithelium or in stroma. There is a focus on paracrine mechanisms by which loss and/or overexpression of TGFβ signaling contributes to tumor initiation and metastases in the context of oncogene-driven EMT and mammary epithelial cell transformation.

  • Jennifer A. Pietenpol, Ph.D. This laboratory focuses on the role of the p53 family of transcription factors and biochemical pathways that control cell cycle checkpoint response in human breast cancer cells. There is an increasing emphasis by this group on discovery of pathways critical for the progression of basal-like (triple negative) breast cancer and IITs of novel therapies in patients with this type of breast cancer. Dr. Pietenpol also serves as co-director of the Breast Cancer SPORE.

  • Sheila H. Ridner, Ph.D., R.N. Dr. Ridner is Associate Professor in the School of Nursing. Her research is directed toward developing a better understanding of the impact of treatment-related lymphatic damage on cancer patients and survivors. That information is then used to design and test physical and psychological interventions geared toward improving symptoms and quality of life in cancer survivors with lymphatic damage. Her work has been funded by NIH, the ACS, and the Oncology Nursing Society Foundation. She is currently PI on three funded intervention studies addressing lymphedema in breast cancer survivors. 

  • Melinda E. Sanders, M.D. Dr. Sanders is an expert breast academic pathologist. She is one of three partners in the Vanderbilt Breast Consultation service that provides more than 5,000 consults per year from all over the world. She serves as research pathologist for all VICC-based breast cancer clinical trials, and as co-Director of the Tissue Core of the Breast Cancer SPORE, where she supervises the role of the SPORE-dedicated research fellow and technical personnel. Her translational research program in breast cancer focuses on genomic and proteomic profiling studies in breast cancer.

  • Douglas B. Sawyer, M.D., Ph.D. Dr. Sawyer is Director of the Division of Cardiology and a physician-scientist who specializes in heart failure. His laboratory conducts basic and translational work examining mechanisms of treatment-induced heart failure in patients with breast cancer. Major areas of focus are the role of ErbB receptors in heart physiology, the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which new and established breast cancer therapies and combinations targeting this receptor network can cause cardiac dysfunction, and the use of circulating endothelial progenitors as indicators of cardiac repair in these clinical settings.

  • Jeffrey R. Smith, M.D., Ph.D. The Smith laboratory employs genomics, bioinformatics, statistical genetics, and high-performance computational approaches to determine the role of genes in the onset and course of both breast and prostate cancer. This group is conducting an extensive investigation of genes on polypeptide growth factor signaling networks and estrogen metabolism pathways in the progression of premalignant breast disease to invasive breast cancer.

  • Thomas E. Yankeelov, Ph.D. Dr. Yankeelov is Director of Cancer Imaging Research at the Vanderbilt University Institute of Imaging Science (VUIIS) and serves as Director of the VICC Animal and Human Imaging Shared Resource and as co-Director of the Breast Cancer SPORE Imaging Core. His research involves the development and application of multi-modal, non-invasive, in vivo imaging methods for monitoring treatment response in breast cancer patients. This investigation extends from mathematical modeling to applications in pre-clinical mouse models to implementation in human studies, thereby spanning the gamut of cancer imaging

  • Wei Zheng, Ph.D., M.P.H. Dr. Zheng is an internationally recognized epidemiologist with a major research interest in host and environmental factors in breast cancer. Currently he is the PI of multiple NCI-funded studies, including a genome-wide association study of breast cancer. He also directs the Shanghai Women’s Health Study, which includes approximately 75,000 women who have been followed for cancer incidence and cause-specific mortality. Dr. Zheng recently received a MERIT award from NIH for his funded work with this large and unique cohort. His research team is also studying biomarkers, nutritional factors and gene-diet interaction in the etiology of breast cancer.

Program Members

  • Abramson, Vandana G., M.D.
    Assistant Professor of Medicine (Hematology/Oncology); Medical Oncologist
  • Arteaga, Carlos L., M.D.
    Donna S. Hall Chair in Breast Cancer; Professor of Cancer Biology and Medicine (Hematology/Oncology); Associate Director of Clinical Research; Director, VICC Breast Cancer Program; Medical Oncologist
  • Balko, Justin M., Pharm.D., Ph.D.
    Research Assistant Professor of Medicine (Hematology/Oncology); Researcher
  • Brantley-Sieders, Dana M., Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor of Medicine: Rheumatology and Immunology
  • Chakravarthy, Anuradha (Bapsi), M.D.
    Professor, Program Director ; Professor of Radiation Oncology; Radiation Oncologist
  • Chekmenev, Eduard Y., Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor of Radiology and Radiological Sciences
  • Cook, Rebecca S., Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor of Cancer Biology; Researcher
  • Dupont, William D., Ph.D.
    Professor of Biostatistics and Preventitive Medicine; Vice-Chair for Academic Affairs, Department of Biostatistics; Researcher
  • Giltnane, Jennifer M., M.D., Ph.D
    Assistant Professor; Division of Investigative Pathology; Dept. of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology; Pathologist
  • Huff, John G., M.D.
    Professor of Radiology and Radiological Sciences; Chief, Section of Breast Imaging; Imaging Director, Vanderbilt Breast Clinic; Medical Director, Breast Imaging Services; Breast Imaging Specialist
  • Lehmann, Brian D., Ph.D.
    Research Associate Professor of Biochemistry; Researcher
  • Macara, Ian, Ph.D.
    Louise B. McGavock Professor and Chair in Cell & Developmental Biology; Researcher
  • Mayer, Ingrid A., M.D., M.S.C.I.
    Associate Professor of Medicine (Hematology/Oncology); Clinical Director and Co-Leader, Breast Cancer Program; Medical Oncologist
  • Meszoely, Ingrid M., M.D.
    Associate Professor of Surgical Oncology; Clinical Director, Vanderbilt Breast Center; Surgical Oncologist
  • Moses, Harold L., M.D.
    Ingram Professor of Cancer Research; Professor of Cancer Biology, Medicine and Pathology; Interim Chair, Department of Cancer Biology; Director Emeritus, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center; Researcher
  • Pietenpol, Jennifer A., Ph.D.
    Benjamin F. Byrd, Jr. Professor of Oncology ; Professor of Biochemistry, Otolaryngology, Cancer Biology; Director, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center; Administrator and Researcher
  • Rexer, Brent, M.D., Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor of Medicine (Hematology/Oncology); Medical Oncologist
  • Richmond, Ann, Ph.D.
    Ingram Professor of Cancer Research; Professor of Cancer Biology; Vice Chair, Department of Cancer Biology; Researcher
  • Ridner, Sheila H., M.S.H.S.A. ,M.S.N., Ph.D., R.N.
    Martha Rivers Ingram Professor of Nursing; Researcher
  • Sanders, Melinda, M.D.
    Assistant Professor of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology; Researcher
  • Skala, Melissa, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering
  • Smith, Jeffrey R., M.D., Ph.D.
    Associate Professor of Medicine, Cancer Biology; Researcher
  • Sterling, Julie Ann, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor of Medicine (Clinical Pharmacology ); Assistant Professor of Cancer Biology; Researcher
  • Yankeelov, Thomas E., Ph.D.
    Ingram Professor of Cancer Research ; Professor of Radiology and Radiological Sciences, Biomedical Engineering, Physics, and Cancer Biology; Director of Cancer Imaging Research: Vanderbilt University Institute of Imaging Science and Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center; Co-leader, Host-Tumor Interactions Research Program: Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center; Researcher
  • Zheng, Wei, M.D., Ph.D, M.P.H.
    Director, Vanderbilt Epidemiology Center ; Chief, Division of Epidemiology ; Ingram Professor of Cancer Research; Professor of Medicine (Epidemiology) ; Cancer Epidemiologist