Personal Statement

I have served as a Program Leader in the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center since 2008, first as co-Leader of the Women’s Cancers Program from 2008-2014, then the Translational Cancer Biology and Signaling Program (2014-2019) and since 2019, Cancer Therapeutics. I serve as Chief of the Division of Molecular Medicine (in the Department of Internal Medicine), a division dedicated to the study of basic cancer research and its effective translation. I have also served as the leader of Team Science and Entrepreneurship/ Commercialization in the UNM Clinical and Translational Science Center since 2011. Lastly, I lead a regional accelerator hub with the goals of promoting entrepreneurship and commercialization. In these multiple roles, my overarching goals are to promote the translational of basic cancer research to the clinic and bedside.

My research focuses on the roles of the 7-transmembrane G protein-coupled estrogen receptor, GPR30/GPER in health and disease, with an emphasis on cancer biology, but also cardiovascular function, obesity and diabetes. We were the first to characterize GPER as an estrogen-binding receptor that is functionally distinct from the classical estrogen receptors ERa/b.

I have been studying GPCRs for over 30 years and specifically GPER for over 15 years. Of over 215 total publications, our work on GPER alone has resulted in over 90 publications in Science, Science Translational Medicine, Science Signaling, Nature Chemical Biology, and Cell Chemical Biology, among many other journals, which together have been cited over 10,000 times (of over 21,000 total citations).

We were the first and still only group to identify GPER-selective ligands (both an agonist and antagonists), reagents that have propelled studies of GPER function forward. We also demonstrated the prognostic significance of GPER as a biomarker in multiple women’s cancers. The ultimate goals of our work are to determine the mechanisms through which GPER regulates normal physiology and whether GPER represents a novel and viable target in the treatment of multiple disease states, and specifically whether GPER-selective ligands represent novel therapeutic agents in the treatment of multiple cancers, with an emphasis on resistance to anti-hormone therapies in breast cancer.

We have obtained patents for these compounds and their application (US Patent Nos. 7,875,721; 8,487,100; 10,251,870; 10,471,047; 10,561,648 and 10,682,341) and licensed their use to two companies (Linnaeus Therapeutics and GPER G-1 Development Group) through the UNM Technology Transfer Office UNM Rainforest Innovations. These companies have obtained venture capital funding and STTR grants. IND approval for G-1 was obtained in September 2019 with the first patient in a Phase I clinical trial enrolled at UNMCCC in October 2019.

Achievements & Awards

Endowment: The Maralyn S. Budke Endowed Chair in Cancer Chemical Biology and Therapeutics