Professor, Department of Surgery, Department of Medicine, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Cancer Research Center, Committee on Cancer Biology, Committee on Genetics
Director of Urology Research
Ph.D., The University of Kentucky, 1992
The University of Chicago
AMB J653L, (MC 6038)
5812 South Ellis Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
Phone: (773) 702-5882
Identifying Cancer Cell-Microenvironment Interactions Controlling Metastatic Colonization
Tumor metastasis, the process in which tumor cells move from a primary tumor through the circulation, lodge, and grow in distant locations, is a significant contributor to cancer patient morbidity and mortality, yet the process remains poorly understood. This is critical since at the time of diagnosis, many cancer patients already have disseminated cancer cells. While early steps in this process such as invasion have been well studied, mechanisms controlling the survival and outgrowth of tumor cells once they have reached secondary sites, or metastatic colonization, remain largely undeciphered. Given the fragmentary data on the colonization process, many investigators are relegated to piecing together information from various sources to develop working models of molecular and cellular mechanisms controlling metastatic colonization in their particular system(s). To address this, my laboratory worked diligently to achieve the most detailed understanding of this process to date by showing that MKK4’s kinase activity is activated within the microenvironment of the metastatic site, causing a concomitant tumor cell growth arrest, accompanied by successive programs of altered gene expression. My laboratory is thus leading the metastasis field in bridging cell signaling biology and in vivo cancer modeling. We are continuing to establish new paradigms by using MKK4 as a tool to dissect cancer cell-microenvironment interactions and to probe population-dependent behaviors involved in the colonization process. If metastatic colonization can be mechanistically defined, it may be possible to halt the process, relegating at least some forms of cancer to a manageable, chronic disease.
Dr. Rinker-Schaeffer earned her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Kentucky in 1992, and the completed a post-doctoral fellowship at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. In 1994, Dr. Rinker-Schaeffer was recruited to The University of Chicago, where she is an Associate Professor with Tenure in the Department of Surgery, with appointments with the Departments of Medicine and Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the Committees on Cancer Biology and Genetics, Genomics, and Systems Biology. She has contributed widely to the scientific and metastasis community, including service on study sections and membership on editorial boards. Dr. Rinker-Schaeffer has received several awards and honors including the SBUR/Merk Young Investigator Award, and The Fletcher Scholar Award. Her leadership service includes a term as President of the Women in Cancer Research Council of the AACR and President of the Society for Basic Urology Research. She is currently the Vice President of the Metastasis Research Society; an international organization of scientists dedicated to the study and treatment of cancer metastases. Known for her positive energy and enthusiasm, Dr. Rinker-Schaeffer has established a reputation as a strong supporter and proponent of students and junior faculty. Her door is always open and over the past 16 years her laboratory has been home to more than 80 trainees including college, medical, and graduate students; postdoctoral fellows; residents; and visiting scholars.