Among woman, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer and is responsible for the majority of cancer-related deaths. Breast cancer frequently metastasizes to bone, however the underlying mechanisms behind this is still not fully understood. Already back in 1889, Stephen Paget proposed in the so called “seed and soil” that there needs to be some specific crosstalk between the cancer cells and the microenvironment of the distant organ, attracting and promoting growth of the cancer cells in the same way that fertile soil allows the successful growth of seeds. In my work, I am focusing on using natural and synthetic polymer based hydrogel matrices as an effective tool for enabling the cultivation of cells in a three-dimensional environment and thus to more closely recapitulate key factors of the natural extracellular matrix, as in contrast to the conventional two-dimensional cell culture systems. The aim of my study is to develop a three-dimensional in vitro model of breast cancer metastasis into the bone. This model should help to better study the functional interplay between breast cancer cells and the bone microenvironment, particularly the interactions of breast cancer cell with the bone extracellular matrix (inorganic and organic components), as well as with the marrow cell population, to obtain more information about the molecular and cellular cross-talk that is involved in breast cancer bone metastasis.
I received my Master of Science in Molecular Bioengineering from the Technische Universität Dresden in Germany in 2015 and started doing my PhD in March 2016 at the Leibniz-Institute of Polymer Research in Dresden (Germany) in the group of Professor Carsten Werner. My PhD is performed in close collaboration with the group of Professor Peter Fratzl from the Max-Planck Institute of Colloid and Interfaces in Golm-Potsdam (Germany), as well as the group of Professor Claudia Fischbach here at the Cornell University. I am currently performing a six-month long research visit in the Fischbach lab until the end of July. Outside of the lab, I enjoy hiking, skiing and all kinds of other outdoor activities.