Associate Professor Susan Waltz, PhD,
will investigate the function of the Ron receptor tyrosine kinase. This
protein occurs normally in epithelial cells, which form the covering
and lining of tissues in the body.
Receptors are specialized parts of a cell
whose job is to respond to the chemical signals that control the
function of the cell. Specifically, the Ron receptor tyrosine kinase is
believed to regulate cell division and migration.
Recently, Italian researchers noticed
that a large fraction of breast tumors contained a significant
over-production (20 fold) of the Ron receptor compared with normal
breast tissue. This finding, and subsequent studies by Dr. Waltz's
team, raised the possibility that over-production of the Ron receptor
might actually be involved in the cause or progression of breast cancer.
Although no one can yet explain the
connection between increased Ron receptor protein and breast cancer, it
does exist, and Dr. Waltz and her team have been able to reproduce this
association in laboratory mice.