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Kornelia Polyak, MD, PhD

Professor, Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Professor of Medicine, Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Contact Info

Kornelia Polyak
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
450 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA, 02215
Mailstop: Dana 740C
Phone: 617-632-2106
Fax: 617-582-8490


Not Available.

DF/HCC Program Affiliation

Breast Cancer
Cancer Genetics

Research Abstract

My laboratory is dedicated to the molecular analysis of human breast cancer; focusing on identifying differences between normal and cancerous breast tissue using various technologies, determining their consequences and utilizing them to improve the clinical management of breast cancer patients. Currently our main research interests are: (1) understanding the role of the tumor microenvironment in breast tumorigenesis with special emphasis on autocrine/paracrine interactions and the genes mediating these and (2) identifying and characterizing stem cells from normal breast tissue and breast carcinomas.
Emerging evidence suggests that abnormalities occur not only in breast cancer cells, but in the surrounding stromal cells as well. Unlike cancer cells, stromal cells are thought to be genetically stable, and therefore are less likely to be able to develop resistance to cancer therapy. However, there is very little known at the molecular level about the role of epithelial-stromal cell interactions in the initiation and progression of breast tumors. The functions of myoepithelial cells and myofibroblasts are particularly unclear in these processes. We have recently purified each cell type that composes normal breast tissue and in situ and invasive breast carcinomas, and analyzed their gene expression pattern using SAGE. We are characterizing the role of autocrine/paracrine regulatory loops in breast cancer with the aim of targeting them for cancer therapy.
Stem cells are defined as cells with self-renewal capacity and the ability to give rise to multiple differentiated cell types. Recent in vitro and in vivo clonality and tumorigenicity studies have demonstrated the existence of cells with stem cell like properties both in normal human breast tissue and breast carcinomas that are required for normal mammary gland development and tumorigenesis, respectively. Our goal is to isolate undifferentiated mammary epithelial stem cells, differentiated ER+ and ER-luminal epithelial, and myoepithelial cells from normal human breast tissue and characterize them functionally and at the molecular level. Similarly we are isolating and characterizing cells with stem cell properties from breast carcinomas.


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