Dr. Reizes' research focuses on leptin receptors (LepR) and their impact on breast cancer cells. Leptin is a hormone primarily secreted from fat cells and the receptor is a cytokine receptor expressed in brain, periphery, and multiple tumors. Research is now being done on the mechanics of LepR regulation in cancer stem cell self-renewal and tumor progression. The findings indicate that leptin receptor is necessary for maintenance of the master regulating stem cell transcription factors that control self-renewal.
A second focus of the Reizes laboratory is on the intercellular communication gap junction protein connexin 26 and its role in cancer stem cells. The connexin proteins are considered tumor suppressor genes in breast cancer, yet recent findings in the lab challenge this dogma and suggest connexin 26 is procarcinogenic. The studies utilize stem cell reporters developed in the lab designed to track cancer stem cells in real time. This has allowed the lab to identify connexin 26 in cancer stem cells and track it role and mechanisms in these cells. The goal of these studies is to define the key signaling pathways regulated by connexin 26 in promotion of cancer stem cell self-renewal and tumorigenicity.