Overview

The research team of the Hormones and Cancer Laboratory of E. Aubrey Thompson, Ph.D., studies gene structure and function within the context of malignant transformation, with a major focus on breast cancer.

The Hormones and Cancer Lab has pioneered a number of aspects of next-generation sequencing and analysis of RNA, and our research team has developed a number of powerful new analytical tools that are widely used both locally and nationally.

The team's expertise in RNA sequence analysis is evidenced by the fact that the lab was one of three laboratories worldwide that were selected as primary sequencing sites for the Food and Drug Administration's Sequencing Quality Control (SEQC) project.

We are also heavily involved in The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) project sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and the National Human Genome Research Institute. We are members of the breast cancer analytical working group of TCGA and co-leaders of the fusion gene/transcript group.

The major research focus within our Hormones and Cancer Lab is clinical and translational in nature.

We are active members of the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology cooperative group and have leadership positions in several international clinical trials in breast cancer.

Our objective in all these analyses is to use the massive amounts of data from high-throughput sequencing projects to develop integrated models of the genomic architecture of breast cancer cells.

From these data, we are able to identify potential driver genes that may be developed as therapeutic targets. Moreover, we are able to build genomic models that predict clinical outcome, particularly in HER2-postive breast cancer.

Recent genomic analyses have elucidated a link between immunological activity and therapeutic outcome in HER2-positive tumors.

Our working hypotheses were originally developed through analysis of the North Central Cancer Treatment Group N9831 clinical trial (which enrolled about 3,500 patients), and confirmation of the central tenants of our hypotheses will be carried out using samples from the Adjuvant Lapatinib and/or Trastuzumab Treatment Optimisation (ALTTO) trial (which enrolled nearly 8,400 patients worldwide).

A large part of what we do clearly involves big machines and big data sets. But the most important component of our laboratory is the team itself. Studies in the Hormones and Cancer Lab involve a high degree of teamwork among biologists, clinicians, bioinformatics analysts and biostatisticians, and the nature of our work is highly collaborative.

Although our major focus is breast cancer, we actively seek to exploit the analytical tools that we have developed to answer both basic science and clinical questions related to a number of different tumor types. Active analytical programs are currently ongoing in thyroid, lung, pancreatic and renal cancers.