Office Address:
2215b Garland Ave1255B Medical Research Building IV, Nashville, TN 37232

Diversity Liaison

Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Clinical Pharmacology

Hometown
Savannah, GA
Previous Institution
Stanford University
Previous Role/Title
Basic Life Science Research Associate
Specialty
Cancer and Bone Biology

Education

PhD - Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
B.S., Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

Clinical Interest

Research Keywords
Bone metastasis, breast cancer, hypoxia, leukemia inhibitory factor
Research Description

Please use the email address rachelle.johnson@vanderbilt.edu to reach Dr. Rachelle Johnson (not rachelle.w.johnson@vanderbilt.edu). The Johnson laboratory focuses on breast cancer metastasis to bone and breast cancer dormancy in bone, with an emphasis on the signaling pathways that mediate these processes. Improvements in the clinical care of patients with primary breast cancer have dramatically increased patient survival rates over the past decade, yet many patients still develop distant metastases that are strongly associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Recurrence arises from disseminated tumor cells that have overcome their dormant state and proliferate at the site of metastasis. We wish to gain a better understanding of how these dormant cells, which reside in the bone marrow, exit dormancy. Our particular interest lies in the role of hypoxic (low oxygen) regulation of leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) signaling in bone metastasis, since the bone marrow is a naturally hypoxic microenvironment, and the role of LIF and its receptor (LIFR) as a pro-dormancy signal via both autocrine and paracrine actions within the bone marrow. Projects include the identification of dormancy-associated genes across multiple models of breast cancer cells as they exit dormancy, and characterization of a novel bone metastatic breast cancer cell line that more accurately reflects the human disease. We use a combination of molecular and cell biology assays and xenograft and transgenic mouse models to study the mechanism by which breast cancer cells enter and exit a dormant state, and the impact of the bone microenvironment on this process. Please visit the Johnson laboratory website for more information: https://medschool.vanderbilt.edu/vcbb/person/rachelle-johnson-phd-0