Hugo Arias-Pulido earned his Doctorate of Philosophy from the Institute of Biophysics at the Russian Academy of Science in Pushino, Russia in 1990. His multidisciplinary research experience includes molecular biology training at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and cancer research at Columbia University in New York, and an extensive translational cancer research activity at the Colombian National Cancer Institute, and the New Mexico Cancer Center.
His present research is focused on two forms of breast cancer, inflammatory (IBC), the deadliest form of BC, and triple negative BC (TNBC) in young women (less than 35-years old), another form of aggressive BC. These studies are aimed at (i) identifying specific molecular alterations that can be used as predictors of patient outcome and resistance to conventional therapies; and (ii) generating an integrated view of the genetic, epigenetic and miRNA landscapes unique to IBC and TNBC that will identify molecular targets that might be exploited using existing FDA-approved drugs used to treat other tumors, investigational drugs currently in clinical trials and/or opening venues for new drugs and clinical trials. In particular, his studies have demonstrated that the majority of IBC tumors are positive for GPER, an alternate estrogen receptor (ER), and that even in ER-negative cases the ER signaling pathway is still active due to the presence of and active GPER signaling pathway. These findings open new venues to treat IBC with small molecule inhibitors that specifically modulate GPER activity.
Further, his studies have demonstrated the role of tumor stroma VEGF-A as a universal prognostic marker in IBC patients and that the stroma, not the epithelial tumor cell, shows high expression of VEGF-A. These findings suggest that given the high expression of VEGF-A in the stroma but not the in the tumor cells, anti-VEGF-A drugs may not have the expected efficacy as we have observed such limited clinical activity of bevacizumab in breast cancer, including IBC patients.
Given the existence of an active cross-talk between the aggressively moving epithelial tumor cells and the normal stromal cells, standing in their way and serving as a barrier to contain the tumor advance, he is currently analyzing several molecules that strikingly are specifically expressed only in the adjacent stroma and these molecules have demonstrated a remarkable value as prognosticators of local and distant relapses (sensitivity and specificity of 100% with an area under the ROC of 1.0). These studies are very promising in terms of identifying clinical prognostic biomarkers and potential therapeutic targets.
He has also special interest in assessing the clinical use of circulating plasma as a unique source of DNA, RNA, miRNA, proteins and/or circulating tumor cells to define the constellation of genetic abnormalities (mutations and epigenetic alterations, high RNA and/or miRNA levels, and abnormal protein levels) found in primary or metastatic cancers and to determine whether genetic analyses of these biological material would complement the analysis of the primary tumor for clinical decision-making.
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