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Bethany Kerr Laboratory

Research Interests:

Cancer/oncogenesis, tumor microenvironment, bone metastasis, angiogenesis, disseminated tumor cells, biomarkers

Once a localized, primary cancer has metastasized; the survival rates for patients drop dramatically. Metastatic tumors, particularly bone metastases, cause pain and mobility difficulties in patients. However, current diagnostic techniques, particularly for prostate cancer, are incapable of accurately predicting which patients are likely to progress to metastasis. Thus, all patients are treated aggressively resulting in over-diagnosis and over-treatment of clinically insignificant cancers. Effectively identifying patients at risk of dying from metastatic disease requires discovering the mechanisms controlling the initiation and progression of bone metastasis.

Kerr Photo 1

Metastatic Initiation

Based upon circulating tumor cell makers previously identified in advanced prostate cancer patients, we are studying the role of the tyrosine kinase receptor CD117 expression and activation in tumor growth and metastatic initiation. Examining how cells degrade the extracellular matrix in the tumor microenvironment and enter the circulation will provide insights into preventing and diagnosing metastasis.

Homing of Circulating Tumor Cells to Bone

Once cells enter the circulation, they are exposed to a variety of metabolic and physical stresses. Several pathways are likely responsible for survival of circulating tumor cells. Beyond this survival, metastatic tumor cells home to their metastatic niches, including bone. We are examining how chemotactic factors, such as SCF, the ligand for CD117, may attract metastatic tumor cells to the bone microenvironment. Conversely, we also study how primary tumor growth alters the bone structure in preparation of the future metastatic niche.

Prognostic Biomarkers

Using the mechanisms uncovered, we aim to discover prognostic biomarkers capable of identifying patients likely to progress to metastasis. This will allow us to differentiate patients with indolent disease that may benefit from watchful waiting from those with aggressive disease that would require more aggressive treatment.

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Selected Publications:

Kerr, Bethany A.*, Ranko Miocinovic*, Armine K. Smith, Xiaoxia Z. West, Katherine E. Watts, Malory E. Weber, Amanda W. Alzayed, Joseph C. Klink, Maria C. Mir, Tiffany Sturey, Donna E. Hansel, Warren D. Heston, Andrew J. Stephenson, Eric A. Klein, and Tatiana V. Byzova.  CD117+ cells in the circulation are predictive of advanced prostate cancer. Oncotarget. ePub. Dec 17, 2014.    [Read Online]

Kerr, Bethany A., N. Patrick McCabe, Weiyi Feng, and Tatiana V. Byzova.  Platelets Govern Pre-Metastatic Tumor Communication to Bone.  Oncogene. 32(36):4319-24. [Read Online]

Kerr, Bethany A. and Tatiana V. Byzova.  MicroCT: An Essential Tool in Bone Metastasis Research.  Computed Tomography – Clinical Applications.  Ed.  Luca Saba.  InTech, 2012.  211-30.  [Read Online]

Feng, Weiyi*, Maria Madajka*, Bethany A. Kerr*, Ganapati H. Mahabeleshwar, Sidney W. Whiteheart, and Tatiana V. Byzova.  A Novel Role for Platelet Secretion in Angiogenesis: Mediating Bone Marrow-derived Cell Mobilization and Homing. Blood.  117(14):3893-902. [Read Online]

McCabe, N. Patrick*, Bethany A. Kerr*, Maria Madajka, Amit Vasanji, and Tatiana V. Byzova.  Augmented Osteolysis in SPARC Deficient Mice with Bone Residing Prostate Cancer.  Neoplasia.  13(1):31-9. [Read Online]

Kerr, Bethany A, Ranko Miocinovic, Armine K. Smith, Eric A. Klein, and Tatiana V. Byzova.  Comparison of Tumor and Microenvironment Secretomes in Plasma and in Platelets during Prostate Cancer Growth in a Xenograft Model.  Neoplasia.  12(5):388-96. [Read Online]

Full Publication List:Dr. Kerr's Pubmed Page

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Cancer Biology

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Last Updated: 06-13-2016
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