Lesley G. Ellies, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor
  • Ph.D. - MRC Group in Periodontal Physiology, University of Toronto, Canada
  • Residency Training: Eastman Dental Center, Rochester, New York
  • Postdoctoral Training: Biomedical Research Center, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Research Interests

Our laboratory focuses on the role of chronic inflammation in the progression of breast cancer. We have shown that the inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), an enzyme upregulated in response to proinflammatory stimuli promotes tumorigenesis in the mouse mammary tumor virus - polyomavirus middle T antigen (PyMT) mouse model of breast cancer. We have developed stable cell lines from these tumors to aid in studying the role of iNOS in tumorigenesis and metastasis. 

We are currently characterizing the cancer stem cell properties of PyMT tumor cell lines to determine the relationship between different breast tumor subtypes and how they may be modulated by proinflammatory stimuli. In collaboration with Dr. Roger Tsien and his group these cell lines have been used to develop imaging methods that are targeted to tumor cells by their release of the proinflammatory matrix metalloproteinases MMP2 and MMP9.

Our interest in inflammation and breast cancer has also led to a collaboration with Dr. Jerold Olefsky and his group to examine the role of obesity and its associated inflammation in postmenopausal breast cancer progression. Thus the PyMT spontaneous model and tumor cell lines have proven to be valuable tools for the study of inflammation and breast cancer. We are currently using the cell lines to identify specific genes that may be biomarkers or therapeutic targets for breast cancer stem cells.

Representative Publications

  1. Ellies, L.G ., Fishman, M., Hardison, J., Kleeman, J., Maglione, J.E., Manner, C.K., Cardiff, R.D. and MacLeod, C.L. (2003) Mammary tumor latency is increased in mice lacking the inducible nitric oxide synthase, International Journal of Cancer, 106:1-7.
  2. Rothenberg, M.E., Doepker, M.P., Lewkowich, I.P., Chiaramonte, M.G., Stringer, K. Finkelman, F.D., MacLeod, C.L., Ellies , L.G., and Zimmermann , N. (2006) The cationic amino acid transporter 2 regulates inflammatory homeostasis in the lung. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 103:14895-14900.
  3. Davie , S.A., Maglione, J.E., Manner, C.K., Young, D., Cardiff, R.D., MacLeod, C.L. and Ellies, L.G. (2007) Effects of FVB/NJ and C57Bl/6J strain backgrounds on mammary tumor phenotype in inducible nitric oxide synthase deficient mice. Transgenic Research 16:193-201.
  4. Olson, E.S., Jiang, T., Aguilera, T.A., Nguyen, Q.T., Ellies, L.G., Scadeng, M., Tsien, R.Y. (2010) Activatable cell penetrating peptides linked to nanoparticles as dual probes for in vivo fluorescence and MR imaging of proteases. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 107(9):4311-6.
  5. Nguyen, Q.T., Olson, E.S., Aguilera, T.A., Jiang, T., Scadeng, M., Ellies, L.G., Tsien, R.Y. (2010) Surgery with molecular fluorescence imaging using activatable cell-penetrating peptides decreases residual cancer and improves survival. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 107(9):4317-22.
  6. Click here to search for Dr. Ellies' publications


Dr. Ellies received her Bachelor of Dental Science degree from the University of Western Australia. She traveled to the Eastman Dental Center in Rochester New York for a General Residency Program, became interested in research and completed a Master of Science Degree at the University of Rochester. Following this, she moved to Toronto, Canada for a combined Clinical Specialty Program in Prosthodontics and Ph.D. in Oral Biology at the University of Toronto. Dr. Ellies carried out postdoctoral studies in the area of immunology at the Biomedical Research Center, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada and gene targeting in the area of glycobiology at UCSD. Dr. Ellies then transitioned to breast cancer research, where her major focus is on the role of inflammation in the progression of breast cancer.

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