The goal of my research is to identify the molecular adaptations that allow breast cancer cells to break away from a primary tumor and gain a foothold in other tissues. The spread of breast cancer to other sites in the body can be fatal, yet only a small number of the tumor cells that are shed from an initial tumor are capable of establishing metastases. As a postdoctoral fellow, I developed a method for expanding circulating tumor cells in culture after isolating them from patients with metastatic breast cancer. Now, combining this system with a suite of techniques in genomics and cell and molecular biology, my laboratory will catalog the mutations that enable the spread of these metastatic cells and identify the molecules present in target tissues that support their growth. This work could facilitate the development of strategies for blocking metastatic cancer on a patient-by-patient basis, thereby boosting cancer survival.