One of life's deepest mysteries is gene expression: how cells with
identical genetic programs differentiate during the maturation of
complex organisms to become, for example, such diverse tissues as
muscle, nerve, and the epithelium that covers body surfaces and lines
organs. Accordingly, the generation of tissue specificity -- and its loss
during malignancy -- are among the pivotal research themes in modern
Life Sciences Division researchers are taking several approaches to
study this intricate process. One of the most important has been to
culture human and rodent mammary epithelial cells as systems for the
study of normal growth, differentiation, and carcinogenic
transformation. In particular, we are interested in the role of
cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions in gene expression and
differentiation in these systems. Since the development of mammary
glands is subject to hormonal regulation, we are also interested in
determining the relative importance of hormones versus cell-cell and
cell-matrix interactions, as well as how the interplay among hormones
and various cellular factors dictates mammary gene expression. Another
approach to the same broad issue of differentiation and carcinogenesis
is to use avian virus systems to study critical features of oncogene
expression and the influence of environmental factors.
The Breast Cancer Research effort in Life Sciences Division at the
Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory entails more than
20 individual projects amounting to more than $16 million. These are
funded by such organizations as the National Institutes of Health,
University of California, US Army, DOE's Office of Biological and
Environmental Research, and private industry.
This investment represents a wide diversity of disciplines, from
instrumentation development for the early detection of breast tumors, to
the study of the basic mechanisms of normal behavior of breast tissue
and what triggers the progression toward malignancy.
For more information on our scientists' research, please visit the abstracts page.