Beth Weaver, PhD
Studying how tumor cells grow and divide and who is discovering new biomarkers to better predict which tumors will respond best to specific cancer therapies.
Paclitaxel (TaxolTM) is one of the most commonly used drugs to treat a variety of cancers, including primary and metastatic breast cancer. However, not all patients benefit from paclitaxel therapy. Currently, there is no way to identify these patients prior to treatment. A biomarker to predict which patients will benefit from paclitaxel would substantially improve patient outcomes. Paclitaxel is a microtubule poison that, at concentrations typically used in cell culture, arrests cells in mitosis. However, Dr. Weaver has found that concentrations of paclitaxel in primary breast cancers are too low to cause mitotic arrest. Instead, these low concentrations cause chromosome missegregation on multipolar spindles. Work from Dr. Weaver’s laboratory and others has shown that increasing the rate of chromosome missegregation over a maximally tolerated threshold results in cell death and tumor suppression in cell culture and animal models. We hypothesize that tumors that are sensitive to paclitaxel therapy have a pre-existing rate of chromosome missegregation. Dr. Weaver’s research will therefore test whether specific types of chromosome missegregation sensitize tumors to paclitaxel therapy.