The main focus of the LeRoith Laboratory is to understand the role of insulin and insulin-like growth factors in health and disease. Most recently, we have turned our attention to understanding which factors explain the increased risk of cancer and cancer-related mortality in obesity and type 2 diabetes; especially triple negative breast cancer, which is resistant to therapy. We have identified two factors: hyperinsulinemia and hypercholesterolemia, both of which are present in obesity, metabolic syndrome and prediabetic patients. We have created animal models for these disorders and are studying the effects on human breast cancer growth and metastases. One model involves female mice that were genetically manipulated to exhibit hyperinsulinemia and other models show hypercholesterolemia similar to the human disease. All were backcrossed to immunodeficient mice to allow the study of human triple negative breast cancer models.
Using these and other models we have found specific factors involved in the disease process and are presently determining which of them are potential therapeutic targets.