Researcher Spotlight – Joan S. Brugge, PhD

Until recently, studying the evolution of ER-positive breast cells and how they become malignant cancer cells has been limited because ER-positive breast cells are difficult to grow in laboratory cell cultures. Dr. Brugge and her team successfully developed breast ‘mini-organs’, termed organoids, to allow for the growth of ER-positive breast cells in the lab and study of their proliferation in response to estrogen. Using these organoids, they can investigate the mechanisms associated with ER-positive breast cancer initiation. Importantly and unexpectedly, Dr. Brugge identified cells in normal breast tissue that have properties suggesting that they are the cells of origin of ER-positive breast cancer. For complete details on her research, visit