Cathrin Brisken

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Associate Professor

Cathrin Brisken
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Cathrin Brisken in 2006
Born1967 (age 55–56)
TitleAssociate Professor
Spouse(s)Gian-Paolo Dotto
Academic background
Alma materUniversity of Göttingen
Academic work
InstitutionsÉcole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)
Main interestsBreast Cancer, Hormones

Cathrin Brisken (born in 1967 in Osnabrück, Germany) is a german and swiss medical doctor, researcher, and professor at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).[1][2] Her research focuses on the mechanisms of Hormone in breast cancer development.[3]


Cathrin Brisken obtained a doctoral degree in medicine in 1992 and a Doctor of Philosophy in biophysics in 1993 from the University of Göttingen. She then pursued postdoctoral work in the laboratory of Robert Weinberg (biologist) at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 2001, she was named assistant professor at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center. In 2002, she moved to Switzerland to work as an associate scientist at the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research in Lausanne. In 2005, she was named tenure-track assistant professor at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, where she was promoted to associate professor in 2012. In January 2020, she was appointed professor at the Institute of Cancer Research Research in London, where she acts part time and leads the Laboratory of Endocrine Control Mechanisms and the Laboratory of In vivo Modelling.[4]

In 2015, she co-founded the International Cancer Prevention Institute together with Gian-Paolo Dotto.[5][6]


Postdoctoral work

During her postdoctoral studies in Robert Weinberg's laboratory, Cathrin Brisken combined in vivo tissue reconstitution approaches with mouse genetics, thereby contributing to the understanding that the female sex hormones, Estrogen, progesterone, and prolactin act at sequential stages of mammary gland development, with the mammary epithelium as primary target.[7][8] She also showed that Steroid hormone act by Paracrine signaling mechanisms and identified specific secreted Wnt signaling pathway as essential mediators of progesterone.[9]

As group leader

Cathrin Brisken established her own group at EPFL in 2005. Research in her laboratory focuses on the cellular and molecular bases of estrogen, progesterone, and Androgen receptor signaling in the breast and the respective roles of these hormones and hormonally active compounds in breast carcinogenesis. Brisken's laboratory aims to understand how recurrent exposures to endogenous and exogenous hormones contribute to breast cancer development in order to better prevent and treat the disease.

Brisken's laboratory has proposed novel genetic In vivo approaches and develops Ex vivo and Xenotransplantation models using patient samples to study hormone action in human tissues in normal settings and during disease progression.[10][11][12] In 2011, it provided evidence that bisphenol A, a common component of consumer products, has persistent effects on mammary gland development of female embryos whose mothers are exposed to environmentally-relevant doses, pointing to epigenetic events influencing life time breast cancer risk during a perinatal window.[13]


Cathrin Brisken is a member of the Biological Protocol Working Group of the International Breast Cancer Study Group and of the the Pezcoller Symposia Scientific Standing Committee.[14] She served as the Dean of the EPFL Doctoral School from 2012 to 2014, as a member of the Hinterzartener Kreis for cancer research, of the oncology think-tank associated with the German Science Foundation, and of various Swiss, European, and American Association for Cancer Research committees.[15] She was a member of the Women in Cancer Research Council of the American Association for Cancer Research from 2016 to 2020.[16][17]

Personal Life

Cathrin Brisken is married to fellow cancer researcher Gian-Paolo Dotto and they have three children. She speaks eight languages.[18]


  1. ORCID. "Cathrin Brisken (0000-0002-6857-3230)". Retrieved 2020-11-10.
  2. "Cathrin Brisken". Retrieved 2020-11-10.
  3. "Research Activities". Retrieved 2020-11-10.
  4. "Professor Cathrin Brisken - The Institute of Cancer Research, London". Retrieved 2020-11-10.
  5. "International Cancer Prevention Institute – Interdisciplinary research, exchange and education in cancer prevention". Retrieved 2020-11-12.
  6. "ICPI – A global forum for researchers, educators and policy makers to advance the prevention of cancer". Retrieved 2020-11-10.
  7. Brisken, Cathrin; Park, Sissela; Vass, Tibor; Lydon, John P.; O’Malley, Bert W.; Weinberg, Robert A. (1998-04-28). "A paracrine role for the epithelial progesterone receptor in mammary gland development". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 95 (9): 5076–5081. Bibcode:1998PNAS...95.5076B. doi:10.1073/pnas.95.9.5076. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 20216. PMID 9560231.
  8. Brisken, Cathrin; Kaur, Sarabjeet; Chavarria, Tony E.; Binart, Nadine; Sutherland, Robert L.; Weinberg, Robert A.; Kelly, Paul A.; Ormandy, Christopher J. (1999-06-01). "Prolactin Controls Mammary Gland Development via Direct and Indirect Mechanisms". Developmental Biology. 210 (1): 96–106. doi:10.1006/dbio.1999.9271. ISSN 0012-1606. PMID 10364430.
  9. Brisken, Cathrin; Heineman, Anna; Chavarria, Tony; Elenbaas, Brian; Tan, Jian; Dey, Sudhansu K.; McMahon, Jill A.; McMahon, Andrew P.; Weinberg, Robert A. (2000-03-15). "Essential function of Wnt-4 in mammary gland development downstream of progesterone signaling". Genes & Development. 14 (6): 650–654. ISSN 0890-9369. PMC 316462. PMID 10733525.
  10. Sflomos, George; Dormoy, Valerian; Metsalu, Tauno; Jeitziner, Rachel; Battista, Laura; Scabia, Valentina; Raffoul, Wassim; Delaloye, Jean-Francois; Treboux, Assya; Fiche, Maryse; Vilo, Jaak (2016-03-14). "A Preclinical Model for ERα-Positive Breast Cancer Points to the Epithelial Microenvironment as Determinant of Luminal Phenotype and Hormone Response". Cancer Cell. 29 (3): 407–422. doi:10.1016/j.ccell.2016.02.002. ISSN 1878-3686. PMID 26947176.
  11. Beleut, Manfred; Rajaram, Renuga Devi; Caikovski, Marian; Ayyanan, Ayyakkannu; Germano, Davide; Choi, Yongwon; Schneider, Pascal; Brisken, Cathrin (2010-02-16). "Two distinct mechanisms underlie progesterone-induced proliferation in the mammary gland". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 107 (7): 2989–2994. Bibcode:2010PNAS..107.2989B. doi:10.1073/pnas.0915148107. ISSN 1091-6490. PMC 2840294. PMID 20133621.
  12. "Breast cancer: An improved animal model opens up new treatments". ScienceDaily. Retrieved 2020-11-11.
  13. Ayyanan, Ayyakkannu; Laribi, Ouahiba; Schuepbach-Mallepell, Sonia; Schrick, Christina; Gutierrez, Maria; Tanos, Tamara; Lefebvre, Gregory; Rougemont, Jacques; Yalcin-Ozuysal, Özden; Brisken, Cathrin (November 2011). "Perinatal Exposure to Bisphenol A Increases Adult Mammary Gland Progesterone Response and Cell Number". Molecular Endocrinology. 25 (11): 1915–1923. doi:10.1210/me.2011-1129. ISSN 0888-8809. PMC 5417179. PMID 21903720.
  14. "THE 31ST SYMPOSIUM". Retrieved 2020-11-11.
  15. "Scientific Achievement Awards Committees | AACR | Governance". American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). Retrieved 2020-11-11.
  16. "Brisken | ICPI". Retrieved 2020-11-11.
  17. "AM18 Program" (PDF). Retrieved 11 November 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. "Elle parle neuf langues, dont celle des hormones". 24 heures (in français). ISSN 1424-4039. Retrieved 2020-11-11.

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