Research Institute in Oncology and Hematology

Dr Afshin Raouf

Breast Cancer

Dr Afshin Raouf
Basic Medical Science Building
745 Bannatyne Avenue
Rm. 613
Winnipeg, MB, Canada
R3E 0J9
Contact numbers:

Office number 204-975-7704
Lab number 204-975-7703

Email: Dr Afshin Raouf PhD


Breast Cancer

Despite many recent advances, breast cancer remains a poorly understood disease with bad outcome for many women. It is becoming clear that progress in treating breast cancer effectively requires a much better understanding of the cells that generate and maintain breast tumours (cancer stem cells) and exactly how they are abnormal in a given patient. Accumulating evidence suggests that breast cancer tumours are maintained by a rare subset of cells that have stem cell properties (e.g. tissue regeneration), indicating that new therapies are needed to eliminate them to achieve more effective treatments with decreased chance of tumour recurrence. This concept reinforces the hypothesis that normal stem and progenitor cells are important cellular targets in the initiation and recurrence of human breast cancer. Indeed, mutations arising in stem cells could represent an efficient process for hijacking the regulated proliferation and differentiation of primitive normal mammary cells. These possibilities have recently focused much interest in investigating the molecular mechanisms that are active in normal mammary stem cells and how these may be altered to produce tumours.

My research program has 3 major objectives:

1. Identify primitive cell programs that regulate the normal function of the mammary stem and progenitor cells. Figure 1.
2. Establish how the inappropriate execution of these programs causes the normal stem cells and progenitors to acquire a cancer stem cell phenotype. Figure 2.
3. Determine whether this understanding can be leveraged to develop therapies against breast cancer stem cell populations.

Toward accomplishing these objective we have developed techniques to isolate highly purified populations of stem cells and distinct progenitors from breast tissue. We are now using these breast stem cells and progenitors to examine the specific roles of breast oncogenes such as the NOTCH receptors and non-coding RNA such as H19 and Insulin-like growth factor binding protein 7 (IGFBP7) in regulating the biology and function of these rare cells in health and in disease (i.e. breast cancer).

Team Members

  • YuJia Sun (MSc Student)
  • Sumanta Chatterjee (Postdoctoral Fellow)
  • Pratima Basak (Postdoctoral Fellow)
  • Vasudeva Bhat (PhD candidate)

Publications since 2009

PubMed Listed Publication
  1. Notch-Induced Expression of FZD7 Requires Noncanonical NOTCH3 Signaling in Human Breast Epithelial Cells. Bhat V, Sun YJ, Weger S, Raouf A. Stem Cells Dev. 2016 Apr 1;25(7):522-9. doi: 10.1089/scd.2015.0315. Epub 2016 Mar 16.
  2. Adipose-Derived Stromal Vascular Fraction Differentially Expands Breast Progenitors in Tissue Adjacent to Tumors Compared to Healthy Breast Tissue. Chatterjee S, Laliberte M, Blelloch S, Ratanshi I, Safneck J, Buchel E, Raouf A. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2015 Oct;136(4):414e-25e. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000001635.
  3. The Deleted in Liver Cancer 1 (Dlc1) tumor suppressor is haploinsufficient for mammary gland development and epithelial cell polarity. Basak P, Dillon R, Leslie H, Raouf A, Mowat MR. BMC Cancer. 2015 Sep 9;15:630. doi: 10.1186/s12885-015-1642-x.
  4. Estrogen regulates luminal progenitor cell differentiation through H19 gene expression. Basak P, Chatterjee S, Weger S, Bruce MC, Murphy LC, Raouf A. Endocr Relat Cancer. 2015 Aug;22(4):505-17. doi: 10.1530/ERC-15-0105. Epub 2015 May 5.
  5. Reconstruction of 3-dimensional histology volume and its application to study mouse mammary glands. Shojaii R, Bacopulos S, Yang W, Karavardanyan T, Spyropoulos D, Raouf A, Martel A, Seth A. J Vis Exp. 2014 Jul 26;(89):e51325. doi: 10.3791/51325.
  6. Membrane potential differences and GABAA receptor expression in hepatic tumor and non-tumor stem cells. Bautista W, Perez-Alvarez V, Burczynski F, Raouf A, Klonisch T, Minuk G. Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 2014 Jan;92(1):85-91. doi: 10.1139/cjpp-2013-0226. Epub 2013 Nov 1.
  7. Loss of Igfbp7 causes precocious involution in lactating mouse mammary gland. Chatterjee S, Bacopulos S, Yang W, Amemiya Y, Spyropoulos D, Raouf A, Seth A. PLoS One. 2014 Feb 4;9(2):e87858. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0087858. eCollection 2014.
  8. In vitro methods to culture primary human breast epithelial cells. Raouf A, Sun YJ. Methods Mol Biol. 2013;946:363-81. doi: 10.1007/978-1-62703-128-8_23.
  9. The biology of human breast epithelial progenitors. Raouf A, Sun Y, Chatterjee S, Basak P. Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2012 Jul;23(5):606-12. doi: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2012.04.009. Epub 2012 May 17. Review.
  10. Basal-like breast cancers: the phenotypic disparity between the cancer-initiating cells and tumor histology. Raouf A. Breast Cancer Res. 2010;12(6):316. doi: 10.1186/bcr2764. Epub 2010 Dec 16.

Research Funding

Since 2011, Dr Raouf's research has been supported through operating and equipment grants from Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (CBCF), Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR), the University of Manitoba and CancerCare Manitoba Foundtion (CCMF).

Awards and Professional Service

Invited Speaker at Research Seminars/Symposia/Meetings

1.Terry Fox Laboratory, Vancouver, BC, May 2011
2.Department of Immunology, University of Manitoba, September 2010
3.Sunnybrook Research Institute, Toronto, Ontario, October 12, 2009
4.University of Manitoba, Pathology Department, Winnipeg, Manitoba, June 17, 2009
5.University of Manitoba, Regenerative Medicine Program, Winnipeg, Manitoba, August 12, 2008
6.OncoMed Pharmaceutical Inc., Redwood city, California, August 08, 2008
7.Manitoba Institute for Cell Biology, Winnipeg, Manitoba, June 17, 2008

Professional Service

1.Member, Canadian Institute of Health Research- Terry Fox Foundation Frontier Group Grant Projects Review Committee
2.Member, Manitoba Institute of Health Research-Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Review Committee
3.Member, Sarah Israels' Student Thesis Award Committee, MICB
4.Member, Manitoba Breast Tumor Bank Scientific Review Panel
5.Member, Immunology Department's Graduate Student Awards Committee
6.Member, External Review Committee for the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Alliance - Idea Grant Competition
7.Organizer, Immunology Department's Research in Progress Seminar Series
8.Ad hoc reviewer for the Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology
9.Ad hoc reviewer for Breast Cancer Research journal
10.Ad hoc reviewer for Oncogene journal

Member of the Editorial Board

Editor, Cancer Genomics & Proteomics (January 2010 - Present)



RIOH gratefully acknowledges the generous support of



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