Suzanne Ponik

Position title: Senior Scientist, Cell and Regenerative Biology


Phone: Breast cancer; Extracellular matrix


PhD 2003 Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
Postdoc: Indiana University School of Medicine
Postdoc: University of Wisconsin-Madison

PubMed Publications

Research Focus

My group is interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying breast cancer risk due to breast density. Patients with mammographically dense breast tissue have a four to six-fold increased risk of developing breast carcinomas. In fact, 1/3 of all breast cancer cases are attributed to breast density, making it one of the greatest risk factors for carcinoma. Increased breast density is associated with a significant increase in the deposition of extracellular matrix (ECM) components, most notably the protein, collagen. Moreover, changes in collagen matrix organization during tumor progression have been associated with poor patient prognosis. Thus, breast cancer is one type of solid tumor for which there is a clear role for the extracellular matrix both in disease development and at multiple steps in the metastatic cascade.

My lab is working to define how the organization and composition of the extracellular matrix is deposited in the mammary gland and how it alters cell behavior, influences cancer and immune cell function, and impacts tumor cell dissemination and metastatic outgrowth. My research integrates my expertise in cell biology and advanced imaging techniques to address three unanswered questions related to pathophysiologic changes in the ECM of the breast tumor microenvironment. 1) What are the mechanisms regulating the assembly and organization of the ECM in the breast tumor microenvironment? 2) How do tumor stromal cells, including macrophages and fibroblasts, sense and respond to changes in the ECM? 3) Do the ECM changes within the primary tumor microenvironment impact tumor cell dissemination, seeding, and outgrowth in the metastatic niche?

Program Activities

  • Joined ERP Program: 2020


Current ERP students

  • Shelby Fertal (PhD in progress)

No Past ERP students