Member UA Arizona Cancer Center
Director, UACC Flow Cytometry Shared Resource
Dr. Baker has directed a molecular and translational pharmacology laboratory at The University of Arizona Cancer Center (UACC) for the past 10 years. Her laboratory investigates stress signaling pathways activated in response to the tumor microenvironment and novel investigational agents that target these pathways.
A major focus of Dr. Baker's work has been the identification and application of biomarkers that may inform on the mechanism and predict or monitor response to drug therapy. Pre-clinical studies performed by Baker's research group have provided the proof-of-concept necessary to design and incorporate correlative biomarker endpoints within several investigator-initiated clinical trials at the UACC.
Dr. Baker has also directed the Flow Cytometry Shared Resource for the past seven years, and she has more than 20 years of flow cytometry experience including a number of applications with pre-clinical, translational, and clinical study samples.
Dr. Baker investigates stress signaling pathways modulated by the tumor microenvironment with the goals of: 1.) contributing to the understanding of cancer biology, 2.) identifying new therapeutic opportunities to improve the efficacy of existing anti-cancer therapies, and 3.) identifying new therapeutic targets.
Dr. Baker also investigates how biomarkers of hypoxia and extracellular acidosis, two features of the tumor microenvironment, can be used to help predict and monitor response to therapies. One of Dr. Baker’s primary collaborators is Dr. Marty Pagel who has developed a non-invasive imaging method called acidoCEST magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that can quantitatively measure the extracellular pH in tissue. Together, they are investigating the relationship of extracellular pH with tumor oxygenation and cellular metabolism. Their studies suggested that acidoCEST MRI may be an early biomarker of response to metabolically targeted anti-cancer therapies. They are investigating this hypothesis in breast cancers and lymphoma.
Rational Drug Combinations – Strategies to Modulate the Tumor Microenvironment
Many tumors demonstrate significant molecular and microenvironmental heterogeneity. For example, only a small fraction of a tumor may be hypoxic or only a small percentage of a tumor may harbor a mutation in a gene that confers a survival advantage. Unfortunately, this heterogeneity can contribute to intrinsic and/ or acquired resistance to therapy. Dr. Baker is investigating novel combinations of molecularly targeted anti-cancer agents to overcome resistance conferred by a “hypoxic” tumor phenotype. She is performing these studies in human cell line models of lung, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers.