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Understanding functional heterogeneity in normal mammary gland and breast cancer

Speaker Name: 
Shaheen Sikandar
Speaker Title: 
Research Scientist
Speaker Organization: 
Institute of Stem Cell Biology & Regenerative Medicine, Stanford University
Start Time: 
Thursday, March 14, 2019 - 12:00pm
End Time: 
Thursday, March 14, 2019 - 1:00pm
BioMed 200
Lindsay Hinck


Single cell technologies have allowed us to visualize the complexity of transcriptional states of a cell in a given tissue. Despite available information that normal stem cells and tumor-initiating cells are heterogeneous, the effect of this transcriptional heterogeneity on functional differences remains to be elucidated. In my talk, I will discuss how we use single-cell gene expression to solve the controversy regarding the role of epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) in self-renewal of mammary stem cells and breast cancer metastasis. Single-cell gene expression profiling in normal and cancer samples reveals that a minority population in normal mammary epithelium and cancer cells express genes associated with EMT such as ZEB1, ZEB2 as well as LMO2. Functional studies show that repopulating capacity in normal epithelial cells and tumorigenic capacity in breast cancer is independent of the expression of EMT-associated genes. Rather I find that manipulating genes expressed in this population, such as LMO2, have a role in breast cancer metastasis by stabilizing STAT3 signaling. In the future, my lab will use data that I have generated from single-cell sequencing in primary patient and mouse samples to functionally interrogate the role of specific populations in metastasis and mammary gland aging.


Dr. Shaheen Sikandar obtained her Ph.D. in 2009 from the University of California, Irvine. During her Ph.D. she described the critical role of NOTCH signaling in self-renewal of colon cancer stem cells. As a post-doctoral fellow and Research Scientist in Dr. Michael Clarke’s lab at Stanford University, her main research focus is understanding functional differences in subpopulations of normal and cancer stem cells using single-cell technologies. Her post-doctoral work was supported by the Department of Defense, Breast Cancer Research Fellowship.