Finding breast cancer culprits

Julie OstranderProteins play an essential role in regulating how the human body functions. But sometimes they stop working as they should, causing cells to grow out of control and become cancerous.

Julie Ostrander, Ph.D., part of the U’s hematology, oncology, and transplantation faculty, is especially interested in identifying and targeting the proteins that are culprits in breast cancer. With Masonic support, she and her team are currently examining the role of a protein called PELP1.

Ostrander’s group first became interested in PELP1 because it promotes resistance to a common therapy for breast cancer called tamoxifen, and after further research, they discovered that the protein likely promotes resistance to other common breast cancer therapies as well. They have found that in therapy-resistant cells PELP1 can form complexes with other proteins, and believe that targeting proteins in the complex to break it apart may be an effective therapeutic strategy. They are currently testing this hypothesis in animal models to determine if this approach could be used to prevent and treat therapy-resistant, metastatic breast cancer. 

“The environment of the University of Minnesota and the support of Minnesota Masonic Charities has been essential to the progress we have made so far. It has allowed us to make new discoveries and has paved the way for future studies. I am so thankful to have the support to do this incredibly rewarding breast cancer research.”