D. Joseph Jerry
Professor of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, University of Massachusetts
Ph.D.: Pennsylvania State University Postdoctoral Training: Jackson Laboratory; Baylor College of Medicine
Loss of specific tumor suppressor genes has been demonstrated in both familial and sporadic breast cancers; however, the underlying genetic and cellular basis of susceptibility in breast tissue is poorly understood. Critical phases of breast development have been identified during which susceptibility to breast cancer is increased. In contrast, the differentiation of the breast epithelium that takes place during a single full-term pregnancy diminishes life-time risk of breast cancer by half. It is the goal of my laboratory to define the molecular events that regulate susceptibility of the breast epithelium and develop strategies to intervene in these pathways. We have observed changes in the expression and function of the p53 tumor suppressor gene in breast tissues at different stages of development. Therefore, a major focus of the laboratory is to discover the normal cellular mechanisms that regulate p53 expression and function. A variety of mammary epithelial cell lines and mice bearing knockout alleles or transgenes are used in studies to identify factors that regulate p53 activities in apoptosis, cell cycle arrest, and suppression of tumors. More recently, we have begun to look at epigenetic changes in tumor cells that can be reversed by nuclear transplantation. Through the combined use of transgenic animals and contemporary techniques in molecular and cellular biology, we are defining the developmental biology of the breast epithelium itself, while providing both a genetic and cellular basis for susceptibility to breast cancer.