Research in this laboratory is focused on breast cancer-induced cachexia, defined as the loss of skeletal muscle mass and greater muscle dysfunction that occurs during tumor growth and in response to traditional therapies. There is a specific emphasis on the therapeutic implications for the cytokine interleukin-15. In addition to the effects of IL-15 on lymphocytes, my laboratory has established a direct role of IL-15 in stimulating mitochondrial biogenesis in skeletal muscle. Therefore, experiments in the lab are focused on these dual roles of IL-15 during cancer and include: 1) mechanisms of IL-15 in altering the tumor microenvironment by promoting infiltration of NK cells and CD 8 T cells into mammary tumors; and 2) mechanisms of IL-15 in promoting mitochondrial biogenesis within skeletal muscle as a way to attenuate the muscle fatigue typically experienced in cancer patients. We have established a mouse model of mammary tumor growth, evaluated the lymphocyte populations in the mammary tumor microenvironment, and characterized the alterations in muscle contractile properties. Currently, the lab is evaluating the therapeutic effects of IL-15 in our tumor model using transgenic mice that over-express IL-15 within skeletal muscle and transgenic mice that have muscle-specific knockout of IL15Ralpha. The lab also has established a collaboration with breast surgeons in the WVU Cancer Institute to acquire muscle biopsy samples from breast cancer patients. These biopsy samples will be used for NextGen RNASeq to determine the unique genetic signature of muscle in response to breast cancer. Biopsy samples are being collected from multiple breast tumor subtypes which will allow for identification of molecular markers unique to ER/PR+, Her2+, and triple negative tumors as well as markers common among breast tumors. The long-term goals of the lab are to acquire data on the therapeutic efficacy of IL-15-based therapies that can be translated to human breast cancer patients as well as to identify novel molecular markers in muscle in response to breast cancer.