Nita J Maihle PhD

Professor (Adjunct) of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences and Professor of Pathology and of Pharmacology; Director, Biology of Reproductive Tract Cancers Program

Research Interests

Cancer; Women's cancers; Diagnostics; Theragnostics; Biotherapeutics; Precision/personalized medicine, signal transduction; EGFR/ERBB/HER-driven adult solid tumors

Current Projects

1) Discovery and application of disruptive innovations to improve the detection, treatment, and prevention of cancer.

2) Precision medicine in oncology -- the coupling of early detection and theragnostic biomarkers with the treatment of patients using biologically-targeted therapeutics.

3) Use of soluble EGFR/HER receptors (sEGFR and sHERs) as novel serum/tissue biomarkers and also as potential biotherapeutics for the treatment of adult solid tumors.

4) Ligand-independent pro-survival signaling pathways in cancer cells

Research Summary

Over the past two decades, Dr. Maihle and her colleagues have discovered that the signals that cause cancer cells to grow are different from the signals that cause normal cells to grow. These “short circuits” in cancer cells can be targeted to specifically stop cancer cells from growing. New drugs targeting these cancer cell short circuits, drugs such as Herceptin and Gleevec, are some of the most cutting-edge, effective, and specific agents used in the treatment of cancer patients today.

Studies in Dr. Maihle’s laboratory are focused on the discovery of disruptive innovations in the rapidly emerging field of precision medicine: innovations that will allow the more efficient coupling of these new, biologically-targeted therapeutics to the right cancer patients, through the development and application of biochemical and molecular diagnostics.

Toward this end, Dr. Maihle’s laboratory has developed exquisitely sensitive biochemical assays that may one day be useful for the detection of cancer cells anywhere in the body, using a simple blood test to detect the tumor long before it is clinically detectable. Such early detection would allow even currently available treatments to be more effective—potentially alleviating much human suffering. These early detection studies in Dr. Maihle’s laboratory are particularly advanced in breast, ovarian and endometrial cancer patients, but also show great promise for prostate, pancreatic, and lung cancer, as well as in certain brain tumor patients.

Extensive Research Description

Ongoing studies include fundamental aspects of receptor/extracellular matrix regulation by sEGFR/sHER’s, with an emphasis on cell survival signaling, as well as the clinical development of these newly discovered HER receptor isoforms as biotherapeutics, and also as prognostic, diagnostic, and theragnostic biomarkers (serum/tissue/tumor). More recent studies include the discovery of mechanisms underlying primary resistance to biologically-targeted HER-directed therapeutics.


Selected Publications

  • Rodland, K. and N. J. Maihle, 2011. Searching for a system: The Quest for Ovarian Cancer Biomarkers. Cancer Biomarkers. 8 (4-5): 223-230. PMID: 22045355
  • *Wilken, J. A., Baron, A. T., Foty, R. A., McCormick, D. J., and N. J. Maihle, 2011. Identification of immunoreactive regions of homology between soluble Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (sEGFR) and alpha5-integrin. Biochemistry. 50(20):4309-21. PMID: 21491912
  • *Wilken, J. A., Baron, A. T., and N. J. Maihle, 2011. 'The EGFR Conundrum: EGFR-based Diagnostics in the Era of Personalized Medicine. Proc. 9th International AACR Conference on Prevention in Cancer Research, In Press.
  • *Wilken, J. A., Baron, A. T., and N. J. Maihle, 2011. The Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Conundrum. Cancer. 117(11):2358-2360. PMID: 21157953
  • *Wilken, J.A. and N.J. Maihle (2010) Primary resistance to trastuzumab: New tricks for an old drug. Ann. New York Acad. Sci., 1210:53-65.
  • *Wilken, J.A., *Webster, K.T., N.J. Maihle. 2010. Trastuzumab sensitizes ovarian cancer cells to EGFR-targeted therapeutics. J. Ovarian Res. Mar 27;3:7. PMID: 20346177
  • Peng, S., Maihle, N. J., and Y. Huang. 2010. Pluripotency factors Lin28 and Oct4 identify a subpopulation of stem cell-like cells in ovarian cancer. Oncogene 9(14):2153-9. PMID: 20101213
  • *Albitar, L., Pickett, G., Morgan, M., *Wilken, J., Maihle, N.J., and K. Leslie. 2010. EGFR isoforms and gene regulation in human endometrial cancer cells. Mol. Cancer. 9(1):166. PMID: 20579378
  • Baron, A.T., *Wilken, J.A., Haggstrom, D.E., Goodrich, S.T., and N.J. Maihle. (2009) Clinical implementation of soluble epidermal growth factor receptor (sEGFR) as a theragnostic serum biomarker of breast, lung, and ovarian cancer. Investigational Drugs Journal 12(5):302-8. PMID: 19431095
  • Narayan M., *Wilken J.A., Baron, A.T., Kimbler, K.D., Harris L.N., Maihle N.J., (2009) "Trastuzumab-induced HER reprogramming in 'resistant' breast cancer cells" Cancer Res. 69(6):2191-2194. PMID: 1868732 §Selected as a ‘Priority Report’ in the March, 2009 volume of Cancer Research

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