University of California San Francisco

San Francisco, California
Professor of Medicine, Departments of Surgery, Radiation Oncology,
and Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences

Research Projects

Dr. Valerie Weaver is an internationally recognized expert of the tumor microenvironment (TME) focusing on the role of the biochemical and biophysical properties of the extracellular matrix (ECM) that surrounds, supports, and give structure to cells and tissues in the body.

She is credited with establishing the field of Tumor Mechanobiology. Her research program encompasses studies that explore the contribution of cell intrinsic and extrinsic force, stromal fibroblasts, the glycocalyx (proteins and carbohydrates surrounding the cell) and the ECM to breast and pancreatic tumor and glioblastoma development and treatment.

Dr. Weaver is collaborating with Dr. Kornelia Polyak to investigate how differences in sugar molecules (carbohydrates) attached to cancer cells of primary breast tumors compared to those attached to brain metastatic cancer cells affect the cancer cell’s response to treatment, the ability of immune cells to recognize the cells, and the stiffness of the tumor, which affects drug delivery.

This expert characterization of changes of surface glycoproteins could contribute to a greater understanding of the characteristics of metastatic cells. The role of glycoproteins in drug resistance and escape of the immune system is important and changes in these proteins may promote metastasis.


Valerie M. Weaver, Ph.D., is Professor of Medicine, Departments of Surgery, Radiation Oncology, and Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF). She is Director of the Center for Bioengineering and Tissue Regeneration and a member of the Helen Diller Cancer Center and Stem Cell Research Program (UCSF.)

Prior to joining UCSF faculty in 2006, she was faculty at the University of Pennsylvania from 1999 – 2006. She received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry in 1992 from the University of Ottawa, Canada.

Dr. Weaver is an active member of the AACR, ASCB, Metastasis Research Society,
Biophysical Society, BMES, AIMBE, ASBMB, International Society for Stem Cell Research and
Matrix Biology Society. She is editor on multiple journals including MBoC and Dev Cell, is
frequently sought as a speaker at National and International venues and is an organizer/co-organizer of multiple national and international conferences (AACR, CSH, Keystone, GRC, EMBO). Dr.
Weaver has been recognized for her research and leadership through receipt of awards that include:
DOD BCRP Scholar awards (2003; 2011) for exceptional creativity in breast cancer research, the
ASCB WICB Midcareer award for sustained excellence in cell biology research, election as fellow
to the AIMBE and ASCB societies, the Colin Thomson Medal of Honor from the Worldwide
Cancer Research, an Outstanding Investigator award from the NCI, and the Shu Chien Biomedical
engineering society lifetime Excellence in research award.

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Related Updates

What is Genomic Sequencing, and Who Can Benefit?

There’s a paradigm shift taking place in the world of cancer treatment. Experts are moving away from an organ-focused approach to treatment, like using radiation to treat the specific area affected by cancer. Instead, they’re looking at genomic sequencing.  Genomics is the branch of molecular biology concerned with the structure, function, evolution, and mapping of an individual’s genes. Regarding cancer, genomics allows experts to examine DNA to determine an individual’s risk of cancer through genomic sequencing. This means that oncologists can provide more individualized treatment options for patients using precision medicine.  How can cancer risk be determined through genomic sequencing? Parents pass along many traits to their children, such as hair and eye color. Unfortunately, the risk of developing certain types of cancer can also pass along. By examining DNA, experts can identify certain changes in a person’s DNA known for increasing their risk of developing various types of cancer. However, not all cancers pass genetically. In fact, only five to ten percent of all cancers are believed to have an inherited gene mutation. It is important to note that no test can provide exact answers about a person’s inherited cancer risk. Genetic testing can tell whether a specific genetic mutation exists in the DNA. However, it cannot tell whether an individual will develop the disease associated with that mutation later in life or not. What is the benefit of genomic sequencing? Genomic sequencing cannot prevent a cancer diagnosis but can help identify cancer-related DNA mutations. This means an individual can implement precautionary measures. These measures could include making healthy lifestyle changes, such as exercising regularly, ceasing smoking, or reducing alcohol consumption. Depending on the type of mutation, medications may be available to reduce one’s risk of developing cancer. Similarly, genomic sequencing may highlight the option of surgery to remove an organ or gland to prevent cancer from forming or promote undergoing more health screenings regularly.  Who should utilize genomic sequencing? Experts typically only recommend genetic sequencing for patients whose families have a history of certain cancers or patterns of cancer. Doctors may order genetic testing for people that have: Multiple first-degree relatives with cancer diagnoses; Numerous relatives who have been diagnosed with the same cancer on one side of the family; A family history of cancers linked to a single gene mutation, such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or pancreatic cancer; Family member(s) who has been diagnosed with more than one type of cancer; Family member(s) who has been diagnosed with cancer at a younger age than typically seen for that cancer, such as colon cancer; Close relatives who have been diagnosed with cancers linked to rare hereditary cancer syndromes, such as Hereditary Breast & Ovarian Cancer Syndrome (HBOC), Cowden Syndrome, or Lynch Syndrome; or Family member(s) who has been diagnosed with rare cancer, such as breast cancer in a male. Can we expect more research in genomic sequencing?  National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) is committed to advancing genomic research and its potential to be the future of developing treatment plans for cancer patients. As such, NFCR funds a dozen world-renowned researchers paving the way in genomic research. […]

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