Experiments in this laboratory and elsewhere have established the existence in adults (both mouse and man) of primitive hematopoietic stem cells capable of permanently reconstituting the production of mature blood cells in marrow-ablated or suppressed recipients. A major part of our work continues to focus on the development, validation and use of quantitative assays that are specific for biologically distinct subsets of these stem cells using syngeneic (mouse-mouse) and xenogeneic (human-mouse) hosts. We have also identified a developmental “switch” that alters stem cell proliferation and self-renewal control in the post-natal period. We are now trying to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying each of these causes of variable stem cell behavior using defined culture systems, gene transfer strategies, and genome-wide gene expression analyses. We have pioneered the development of quantitative assays for normal mouse and human breast epithelial stem cells and these are being used to identify their distinguishing features and growth regulation. Studies to adapt these methods for application to human breast cancer are underway. The objective is to provide a basis for analyzing molecular and genetic determinants of breast cancer at the level of the breast cancer stem cell and thereby develop more rational, patient-targeted therapies.
Lab website: http://www.terryfoxlab.ca/people-detail/connie-j-eaves/