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Faculty Biography For:

Cecilia Williams
Adjunct Associate Professor
Ph.D. Biotechnology, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Sweden

Biology and Biochemistry Department
University of Houston
Houston, Texas 77204-5001

Office: SERC 3024
Phone: (832) 842-8807

My interests are centered on the molecular function of the nuclear receptors in cancer and stem cells. My laboratory is studying the effect on gene regulation, including non-coding RNAs, that activation of nuclear receptors infer and the relationship between cancer and stem cells. Were using mammalian cell lines, knock-out mice and human clinical samples, that we study using large-scale genomic approaches, e.g. microarrays and next generation sequencing.

Nuclear receptors in the interface of mammary stem cells, breast cancer and cancer stem cells
Cancers are believed to evolve from stem cells, which via acquired genetic and epigenetic changes could develop into cancer stem cells. Tumors and stem cells share conserved pathways. If we understand the differences and similarities between stem cells and cancer stem cells, we could improve cancer treatment. We have found that specific breast subtypes are more stem-like than others, and that several nuclear receptors are changed during transition of mammary epithelial stem-like cells towards differentiation. We are also evaluating potential breast cancer/stem cell markers found in our initial studies and investigating the role of miRNAs in this process.

The estrogen receptors' mechanisms and function in cancer and stem cells
The two estrogen receptors (ERa and ERb) are nuclear receptors and transcription factors that mediate the effect of estrogen. They are involved in e.g. normal mammary gland development and breast cancer. ERa increases proliferation and tumor growth of ERa positive breast tumors, whereas ERb appears to be anti-tumorigenic. Understanding the mechanism of ERb, and its interaction with ERa, will help explaining the different effects we see by these two estrogen receptors and could lead to improved treatment and prevention of breast cancer. Im interested in the functional genomics of the estrogen receptors, e.g. their complete transcriptomic effects, defining their directly regulated genes and mechanisms, effects of the different splice variants, and the varying functions in different estrogen related cancers and in stem cells. Part of our studies is focused on miRNAs, small non-coding RNAs that mediates 20% or more of gene regulating events and has promising potential as diagnostic markers. Little is known regarding estrogen and miRNAs.

List of all publications

For full list of publications see

Oestrogen receptors in breast cancer: basic mechanisms and clinical implications. Williams C, Lin CY. Ecancermedicalscience. 2013 Nov 5;7:370. Review. PMID: 24222786

Support of a bi-faceted role of ER in ER-positive breast cancer cells. Jonsson P, Katchy A, Williams C. Endocr Relat Cancer. 2013 Nov 5. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 24192230

Studies in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis do not support developmental bisphenol a exposure as an environmental factor in increasing multiple sclerosis risk. Krementsov DN, Katchy A, Case LK, Carr FE, Davis B, Williams C, Teuscher C. Toxicol Sci. 2013 Sep;135(1):91-102. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kft141. PMID: 23798566

Liver × receptor ligands disrupt breast cancer cell proliferation through an E2F-mediated mechanism. Nguyen-Vu T, Vedin LL, Liu K, Jonsson P, Lin JZ, Candelaria NR, Candelaria LP, Addanki S, Williams C, Gustafsson JA, Steffensen KR, Lin CY. Breast Cancer Res. 2013 Jun 20;15(3):R51. PMID: 23809258

Estrogen receptor  expression induces changes in the microRNA pool in human colon cancer cells. Edvardsson K, Nguyen-Vu T, M Kalasekar S, Ponten F, Gustafsson JA, Williams C. Carcinogenesis. 2013 Jul;34(7):1431-41. doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgt067. Epub 2013 Feb 22. PMID: 23436804

Estrogen receptors 1 and 2 have opposing roles in regulating proliferation and bone metastasis genes in the prostate cancer cell line PC3. Dey P, Jonsson P, Hartman J, Williams C, Ström A, Gustafsson JÅ. Mol Endocrinol. 2012 Dec;26(12):1991-2003. doi: 10.1210/me.2012.1227. Epub 2012 Oct 1. PMID: 23028063

Interplay between AP-1 and estrogen receptor  in regulating gene expression and proliferation networks in breast cancer cells. Dahlman-Wright K, Qiao Y, Jonsson P, Gustafsson JÅ, Williams C, Zhao C. Carcinogenesis. 2012 Sep;33(9):1684-91. Epub 2012 Jul 12. PMID: 22791811

MicroRNA-regulated gene networks during mammary cell differentiation are associated with breast cancer. Aydogdu E, Katchy A, Tsouko E, Lin CY, Haldosen LA, Helguero L, Williams C. Carcinogenesis. 2012 Aug;33(8):1502-11. doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgs161. Epub 2012 May 4. PMID: 22562546

Knockdown of SF-1 and RNF31 Affects Components of Steroidogenesis, TGF, and Wnt/-catenin Signaling in Adrenocortical Carcinoma Cells. Ehrlund A, Jonsson P, Vedin LL, Williams C, Gustafsson JÅ, Treuter E. PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e32080. Epub 2012 Mar 9. PMID: 22427816

Estradiol-activated estrogen receptor  does not regulate mature microRNAs in T47D breast cancer cells. Katchy A, Edvardsson K, Aydogdu E, Williams C. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 128 (2012) 145 153 (Epub ahead of print Nov 3, 2011)

The Two-Pore Domain Potassium Channel KCNK5: Induction by Estrogen Receptor {alpha} and Role in Proliferation of Breast Cancer Cells. Alvarez-Baron CP, Jonsson P, Thomas C, Dryer SE, Williams C. Mol Endocrinol. 2011 Aug;25(8):1326-36. Epub 2011 Jun 16. PMID: 21680658

Estrogen Receptor {beta} Induces Antiinflammatory and Antitumorigenic Networks in Colon Cancer Cells. Edvardsson K, Ström A, Jonsson P, Gustafsson JÅ, Williams C. Mol Endocrinol. 2011 Jun;25(6):969-79. Epub 2011 Apr 14. PMID: 21493669

Johan Hartman, Karin Edvardsson, Karolina Lindberg, Chunyan Zhao, Cecilia Williams, Anders Strom, and Jan-Ake Gustafsson. Tumor Repressive Functions of Estrogen Receptor B in SW480 Colon Cancer Cells. Cancer Res (2009) 69(15):6100-6106

Williams C, Helguero L, Edvardsson K, Haldosén LA, Gustafsson JA. Gene expression in murine mammary epithelial stem cell-like cells shows similarities to human breast cancer gene expression. Breast Cancer Res. (2009) May 8;11(3):R26.

Williams C, Edvardsson K, Lewandowski SA, Strom A, Gustafsson J-A. A genome-wide study of the repressive effects of estrogen receptor beta on estrogen receptor alpha signaling in breast cancer cells. Oncogene (2008) 27(7):1019-32.

Per Svensson, Cecilia Williams, Joakim Lundeberg, Patrik Ryden, Ingela Bergqvist and Helena Edlund. Gene array identification of Ipf1/Pdx1 -/- regulated genes in pancreatic progenitor cells. BMC Developmental Biology (2007) 7:129.

Richter K, Wirta V, Dahl L, Bruce S, Lundeberg J, Carlsson L, Williams C. Global gene expression analyses of hematopoietic stem cell-like cell lines with inducible Lhx2 expression. BMC Genomics (2006) 7:75.

Williams C, Wirta V, Meletis K, Wikstrom L, Carlsson L, Frisen J, Lundeberg J. Catalog of gene expression in adult neural stem cells and their in vivo microenvironment. Exp Cell Res (2006) 312(10):1798-812.

Persson AE, Edström DW, Bäckvall H, Lundeberg J, Pontén F, Ros AM, Williams C. The mutagenic effect of ultraviolet-A1 on human skin demonstrated by sequencing the p53 gene in single keratinocytes. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. (2002) Dec;18(6):287-93.

Ling G, Ahmadian A, Persson A, Undén AB, Afink G, Williams C, Uhlén M, Toftgård R, Lundeberg J, Pontén F. PATCHED and p53 gene alterations in sporadic and hereditary basal cell cancer. Oncogene. (2001) Nov 22;20(53):7770-8.

Persson AE, Ling G, Williams C, Bäckvall H, Pontén J, Pontén F, Lundeberg J. Analysis of p53 mutations in single cells obtained from histological tissue sections. Anal Biochem. (2000) Dec 1;287(1):25-31

Williams C, Pontén F, Moberg C, Söderkvist P, Uhlén M, Pontén J, Sitbon G, Lundeberg J. A high frequency of sequence alterations is due to formalin fixation of archival specimens. Am J Pathol. (1999) Nov;155(5):1467-71

Yngveson A, Williams C, Hjerpe A, Lundeberg J, Söderkvist P, Pershagen G. p53 Mutations in lung cancer associated with residential radon exposure. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. (1999) May;8(5):433-8.

Ahmadian A, Ren ZP, Williams C, Pontén F, Odeberg J, Pontén J, Uhlén M, Lundeberg J. Genetic instability in the 9q22.3 region is a late event in the development of squamous cell carcinoma. Oncogene. (1998) Oct 8;17(14):1837-43.

Williams C, Pontén F, Ahmadian A, Ren ZP, Ling G, Rollman O, Ljung A, Jaspers NG, Uhlén M, Lundeberg J, Pontén J. Clones of normal keratinocytes and a variety of simultaneously present epidermal neoplastic lesions contain a multitude of p53 gene mutations in a xeroderma pigmentosum patient. Cancer Res. (1998) Jun 1;58(11):2449-55.

Williams C, Norberg T, Ahmadian A, Pontén F, Bergh J, Inganäs M, Lundeberg J, Uhlén M. Assessment of sequence-based p53 gene analysis in human breast cancer: messenger RNA in comparison with genomic DNA targets. Clin Chem. (1998) Mar;44(3):455-62.

Pontén F, Williams C, Ling G, Ahmadian A, Nistér M, Lundeberg J, Pontén J, Uhlén M. Genomic analysis of single cells from human basal cell cancer using laser-assisted capture microscopy. Mutat Res (1997) Sep;382(1-2):45-55