University or Institution

Purdue University

Primary Mentor:

Sulma Mohammed DVM, PhD

Professor of Cancer Biology, Department of Comparative Pathobiology

Mentor Team:

Michael Childress DVM, MS, DACVIM (Oncology)

Associate Professor, Comparative Oncology, Section Head, Oncology, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences


Description of Potential Research Project(s)

Women with genetic mutations or premalignant breast lesions such as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) are at increased risk of developing invasive breast cancer. Currently, these women are clinically identified and are obligatorily treated with surgery that has adverse long-term health effects, as these women suffer weight gain, fatigue, disfiguring, and depression. Hence, new strategies to prevent cancer development with no long-term adverse effects are urgently needed. Recently, the prospect of developing a prophylactic vaccine seems possible. However, the production and testing of such prophylactic cancer vaccines are challenging due to the low cancer incidence rate within the healthy population and the time and cost to run an efficacy trial, and ethical issues. These challenges led researchers to rely heavily on less than perfect cancer models such as rodents to investigate cancer prevention strategies.

In the pursuit of identifying an immunocompetent animal model that faithfully represents human breast cancer, we have found that, unlike most studied rodent models, female dogs develop DCIS spontaneously without genetic or chemical manipulation, and that DCIS occurs in about 50% of randomly screened asymptomatic female dogs. We have shown that canine DCIS resembles human DCIS with shared genetic, histopathologic, and molecular features and similar imaging and behavioral characteristics. Dogs with DCIS are at risk of developing invasive mammary cancer within one year. As in women, canine DCIS are heterogeneous and are divided into four subtypes, including triple-negative DCIS (TN-DCIS). Thus, we provide for the first time an immunocompetent animal model for TN-DCIS that will facilitate molecular analysis of pre-invasive triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) and will provide an invaluable resource for identifying and selecting vaccine targets for TNBC immunoprevention. The work will evaluate the safety and immunogenicity of α-lactalbumin and mammaglobin A vaccine formulations in healthy female dogs and determine the immunogenicity and efficacy of vaccine formulations in preventing DCIS progression in the dog model.

Additional Training Opportunities:

The candidate will attend the comparative and clinical sciences seminars and the cancer center seminars and guest speakers. The candidate will mentor in small grant writing and contribute to significant proposals. The candidate will attend and present talks or posters at national and international conferences.