Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell

Elizabeth Mitchell, PhD is part of the team at OHSU Knight Cancer Institute and is a Susan G Komen research funding recipient. She is also on the Susan G Komen Oregon and SW Washington ambassador board! John Erickson of K103 interviewed Dr. Mitchell to learn more about her research and the importance of fundraising to support scholars like herself.

Dr. Mitchell specializes in the study of early stage breast cancer called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). Less than half of all DCIS patients go on to develop invasive breast cancer. However, currently there are no clinical tools available to predict which patients are at risk of developing life threatening disease. Dr. Mitchel’s goal is to find a biomarker that will tell patients and their doctors what their risk is of cancer progression.

Dr. Mitchell is specifically interested in the milk ducts, where tumors grow. The milk ducts are surrounded by a layer of smooth muscle called the myoepithelial layer. When asked about why she chose to study the myoepithelial layer, Dr. Mitchel had this to say, “we know that [this layer] can act as a fence around the milk ducts and we think it may restrain or impair the ability of tumor cells to get out and move on to become Stage 1 to Stage 4 breast cancer. We are really interested in looking at markers within this specialized cell layer.”

Identifying when this “fence” is compromised could help doctors determine which patients are at risk of developing invasive cancer and which are not. “We are one of the only groups looking at this cell layer,” explained Dr. Mitchell, highlighting the novelty and importance of her research.

Listen to Dr. Mitchell’s interview with John Erickson.

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