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How do Tissues Turn Into Tumors?
Role of Microenvironment in Breast Cancer

Monday, February 27, 2006
5:30 – 7:00 pm
Berkeley Repertory Theatre
2015 Addison Street

Dr. Mary Helen Barcellos-Hoff
Senior Scientist, Berkeley Lab &
University of California, San Francisco

Unlike most cancer researchers who ask the question, "How do cells become cancerous?" Barcellos-Hoff poses the question, "How do tissues become tumors?" “It takes a tissue to make a tumor,” she says. “Cells don’t become tumors without cooperation from the surrounding cells in the tissue. Therefore, to understand cancer is to understand a process that occurs at the tissue level.” This question arises from the research in cell biology she has conducted 20 years ago with Berkeley Lab’s Dr. Mina Bissell, the first scientist to link breast cancer to the extracellular matrix (ECM), a network of proteins that supports the communication between cells. Her experiments showed that proper communications between a cell and its ECM are crucial to normal functioning.

Barcellos-Hoff began studying what happens to the ECM in the breast after it has been exposed to low doses of ionizing radiation. Radiation elicits changes in the ECM and the proteins that control its production. Recent work has shown that these signals from outside the cell are crucial to the damage response. However, when these communications break down, radiation can promote the cancer process.

Come join us to learn more about these developments in Berkeley Lab’s Life Sciences cancer research program and its collaborative efforts with UCSF and other institutions to better understand how tissues integrate information across multiple scales of organization and use this information in modeling critical events in carcinogenesis.