Approximately 15-20% of breast cancers have a triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) phenotype i.e. they lack expression of the estrogen receptor (ER) and the progesterone receptor (PR) and these cells do not over express Her2. This type of breast cancer correlates with very aggressive cancer, poor prognosis and aggressive relapses. TNBC occurs at a higher incidence in young African-American women. Currently available standard therapies targeting ER or Her2 are ineffective against this sub-type of breast cancer. Thus, new strategies are urgently needed for TNBC to reduce mortality and increase survival time. The focus of our current research is the identification and validation of novel kinase targets critical for tumor growth and metastasis for this type of breast cancer.
This research is focused on developing novel chemical biology approaches to the discovery of small molecules as probes and drug leads. We develop and validate novel biochemical and cell-based assays for use in high throughput screening of chemical libraries to identify biologically active compounds. I am also interested in drug discovery for novel cancer targets, enhancers of existing cancer drugs and compounds that reduce side effects of cancer drugs. Another related area of general interest is drug repurposing i.e. the discovery of new medical uses for existing FDA-approved drugs.
The kinase MEKK2 (MAP3K2) may play a critical role in breast cancer tumor growth and metastasis. Thus, we are identifying and optimizing small molecule kinase inhibitors for this kinase. In a different area of research, we have identified a series of small molecules that may reduce a major side effect of a commonly prescribed cancer drug. One of these is an old antidepressant drug that has potential to be repurposed for inhibiting severe diarrhea associated with a colon cancer drug.