University of Southern California

Advancing breast cancer research

Circulating tumor cells (Image courtesy of Min Yu)

Dr. Min Yu tackles one of the biggest challenges for treating breast cancer: targeting rare metastatic cancer stem cells (CSCs) in a constantly evolving tumor unique to each patient.

CSCs are thought to be highly metastic subset of the broader population of tumor cells that enter a patient’s blood circulation. Dr. Yu obtains these circulating tumor cells from patient blood samples, expands the number of these cells in the laboratory, and pinpoints the dangerous and deadly CSCs by evaluating their ability to form tumors in mice. Utilizing the Choi Family Therapeutic Screening Facility, she is testing if CSCs with certain properties or biomarkers respond best to certain drugs, which could eventually inform about clinicians how to personalize treatment regimens to better target CSCs in breast cancer patients and improve outcomes.