Biography and research overview
Dr Lesley-Ann Martin was a Group leader and Senior Staff Scientist within the Breast Cancer Now Toby Robins Research Centre at The Institute of Cancer Research, London.
She received funding from Breast Cancer Now as a co-applicant with Professor Mitch Dowsett. She also holds a number of academic industrial awards as well as a Global Alliance award as part of an initiative with AstraZeneca. Dr Martin collaborated with Professor Mitch Dowsett, who is Professor of Biochemical Endocrinology at the ICR and Head of the Academic Department of Biochemistry at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.
Dr Martin looked at treatments for the most common type of breast cancer, known as hormone-receptor or oestrogen-receptor positive. Such tumours account for around three in every four breast cancers and they can be treated with endocrine agents such as tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors. Although these treatments are generally effective initially, patients often develop resistance to them.
With Professor Dowsett, Dr Martin was trying to identify the phenotypic and genotypic alterations that influence response or resistance to endocrine therapy, and to translate these molecular findings into novel treatments. In order to do this Professor Dowsett has pioneered the largest pre-surgical study to date assessing aromatase inhibitor therapy in 4,500 women across the UK, allowing genome-wide molecular profiling to be conducted to define the underlying biology of hormone-receptor positive breast cancer. This is being achieved using technologies such as next-generation sequencing, as well as global gene expression profiling.
In parallel, Dr Martin’s group have developed a panel of breast cancer cell lines that model clinical scenarios, and by using technologies such as reverse phase proteomics and chromatin immunprecipitation (ChIP-seq), she was beginning to build a picture of the mechanisms of endocrine resistance. These models are giving an insight into oestrogen receptor biology and providing a platform in which to investigate clinical targets and to test new therapeutic strategies, many of which make their way into clinical trials.