Dr. Richer’s expertise in steroid hormone receptors in cancer spans over 25 years. Her laboratory uses contemporary cell and molecular biology techniques to elucidate mechanisms of endocrine therapy resistance in women’s cancers and identify targetable proteins involved in tumor progression. Recent preclinical work on the androgen receptor (AR) in breast cancer led to two investigator initiated clinical trials at our institution (led by oncologist Anthony Elias MD) using anti-androgens in combination with the selective estrogen degrader fulvestrant. Another focus of the lab is on non-coding RNAs that control oncogenic epithelial to mesenchymal transition to facilitate carcinoma metastasis. Through restoration of the micro-RNA miR-200c, deemed the “guardian of the epithelial phenotype,” the lab discovered a mechanism whereby triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) co-opt an immune-suppressive program similar to that utilized by trophoblasts to ensure fetal tolerance during pregnancy. In collaboration with oncologist Dr. Virginia Borges MD and immunologist Jill Slansky, PhD, we discovered that anchorage independent in triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) increase tryptophan catabolism via the enzyme TDO2 and decrease anti-tumor cytotoxic CD8+ T cell viability and function via tryptophan depletion and production of the immune-suppressive catabolite kynurenine.
Dr. Richer is an Associate Editor for Breast Cancer Research and Endocrinology. She co-chaired the Keystone Symposium on Nuclear Hormone Receptors in 2016 and is the Basic Science Chair of The Endocrine Society 2021 Annual Meeting. She has served on many grant review panels for the NIH and DOD and private foundations.
Training the next generation of cancer researchers is a priority for Dr. Richer and her trainees have obtained 4 NCI F31s, 2 F99/K00s, F32, as well as DOD and ACS Fellowships and successfully moved into independent academic and industry positions. In 2015 she was awarded the Dean’s Mentoring Award from the University of Colorado Graduate School and the NIH Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (BEST) Award for Faculty Sponsorship. She promotes junior faculty cancer research and collaborative investigations by serving as PI of the American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grant and as a Co-Leader of the University of Colorado Cancer Center Tumor Host Interactions (THI) Program.