Devon A. Lawson

Dr. Lawson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, in the University of California, Irvine Medical School. She has affiliations with the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center (CFCCC), the Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center, the Center for Complex Biological Systems (CCBS), and the Institute for Immunology. She is co-leader of the Breast Disease Oriented Team (DOT), which coordinates translational research and clinical trials at UCI, facilitates collaborative research between clinicians and scientists, and coordinates tissue sample procurement and distribution. Dr. Lawson started her career in the laboratory of Dr. Owen Witte at UCLA, where she did seminal work defining prostate stem cells and their role in prostate cancer initiation (Lawson DA et al., PNAS, 2007; Lawson DA et al., PNAS 2010). The protocol she developed for prostate stem cell isolation has been extensively cited and continues to be the mainstay in the field (Lawson DA et al., JCI, 2007; Lukacs R et al., Nat Protoc, 2010). As a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Zena Werb’s lab at UCSF, she extended on this work to study the role of stem cells and differentiation in breast cancer metastasis, which is the cause of nearly all patient mortality. She built a new method for studying metastatic seeding and progression, using single-cell transcriptome technologies to define gene expression programs in disseminated cells. This work showed for the first time that disseminating tumor cells express a distinct gene expression profile akin to normal breast basal epithelial stem cells (Lawson DA et al., Nature, 2015). Her lab continues to be at the forefront of this field, and utilizes a diverse array of single cell level approaches to study breast development, cancer progression and metastasis.


University of California, San Francisco

Postdoctoral fellow
Advisor: Zena Werb, Ph.D.
Breast cancer metastasis

University of California, Los Angeles

Doctoral student
Advisor: Owen Witte, MD
Prostate stem cells and prostate cancer

University of California, at Davis

Undergraduate student
Degree: Biological sciences, Genetics
Lab Advisor: Wolf-Dietrich Heyer
DNA repair in S. cerevisiae


2018 Susan G. Komen pink tie honoree

NIH NCI K22: Transition Career Development Award

Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program Postdoctoral fellowship

UCLA Graduate Division Dissertation Year fellowship

NIH Tumor Cell Biology Graduate student fellowship

NIH Cellular and Molecular Biology Graduate Student fellowship (declined)

Science Advocacy

RA_logo Advocating for science funding to public policymakers is critical for the advancement of science and medicine in the U.S. and worldwide. Dr. Lawson first became interested in science advocacy as a postdoc fellow at UCSF, where she participated in local and national lobbying efforts with the UAW 5810, The Union for Postdocs at University of California. Research!America is a lobby group supported by UAW, whose mission is to increase public awareness and support for medical research and innovation. Check out Dr. Lawson’s Research!America statement online.

Community support

tri valley socks logoAn estimated 150,000 women are living with metastatic breast cancer in the U.S. today, and every year 40,000 women succumb to the disease. This means that all of us are touched by it somehow, either personally or through a family member or close friend. Active support of the breast cancer patient community is therefore a critical part of our research program. Communication with patients helps inform the types of questions we ask in the lab and how we ask them. As such, we participate in annual breast cancer walks and advocacy groups, such as the Tri Valley Socks walk shown below.

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