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Barbara B. Rubenstein Professorship in Oncology

School of Medicine

Established in 2002 by Mark E. Rubenstein and the Rubenstein family in memory of Barbara B. Rubenstein

RubensteinBarbaraBARBARA B. RUBENSTEIN, who succumbed to breast cancer in 2001, was a charter member of the Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center Advisory Council and a devoted friend of the center’s director, Martin Abeloff, MD. A tireless advocate for translational research and the concept of rapidly directing knowledge gained in the laboratory to the clinic and patients, Mrs. Rubenstein challenged the faculty to consider new ways of approaching research discovery. Family and friends are also establishing the Barbara B. Rubenstein Scholar Award at Hopkins to support an outstanding young investigator in breast cancer research. The Philadelphia Art Museum, where she had served as a trustee and chair of the European Decorative Arts Committee, named a gallery in her honor.

Held by Saraswati Sukumar

SukumarSaraswatiSARASWATI SUKUMAR, PhD, the inaugural Barbara B. Rubenstein Professor of Oncology, is an internationally recognized expert in the area of molecular and cellular biology of breast cancer. After receiving her PhD in India, she pursued postdoctoral training as a fellow at the National Cancer Institute, then joined the faculty at Salk Institute in 1987. She came to Hopkins in 1994 and is currently co-director of the Breast Cancer Program. She holds appointments in oncology and pathology at the School of Medicine and in the School of Nursing. The research goal of the Sukumar laboratory is to obtain a molecular profile of breast cancer and to apply this knowledge to the early detection, diagnosis and therapy of breast cancer. Toward this end, SAGE, array, and proteomic analysis of breast carcinomas is being performed on noninvasive (ductal carcinoma in situ), invasive (invasive ductal carcinoma), and metastatic breast cancer (bone, ovarian, brain metastasis). The goal is to obtain mRNA and protein profiles of each cell type composing the lesion. This will help derive gene expression signatures typical for each stage of breast cancer for epithelial, stromal, and endothelial cells. By such careful analysis, candidate genes are identified, characterized and utilized for early detection and/or therapy of breast cancer.

The Sukumar Lab is also focused on using comprehensive gene expression, methylation and sequencing and metabolomics analysis to identify alterations in breast cancer, and exploiting these for early detection and therapy. Among differentially expressed genes, the lab has focused on the HOX genes. HOX genes are intimately involved in the development of resistance to both chemotherapy and to agents targeting the estrogen receptor. This work explores the alternate pathways that are activated by HOX proteins leading to this resistance and novel treatments to overcome resistance in both tissue culture and xenograft models. In addition, epigenetically silenced genes and a metabolic reprogramming in tumors also trigger novel early detection and therapeutic strategies. The Sukumar Lab is testing the utility of differentiation therapy through reactivating RAR-beta in breast cancer using histone deacetylase inhibitors with great success. Also, they are targeting enzymes involved in gluconeogenesis and glycolysis with small molecule FDA-approved antimetabolites to achieve antitumor effects.