Peter McHenry, PhD

Peter McHenry

Biological Sciences
Associate Professor/Department Chair
9 years

Post–doc, Indiana University School of Medicine, 2008-2011 

Ph.D. Cell Biology, University of Notre Dame, 2009

B.S. Biology, Union College, 2003

P190B RhoGAP regulates chromosome segregation in cancer cells, Hwang M, Peddibhotla S, McHenry P, Chang P, Yochum Z, Park KU, Sears JC, Vargo-Gogola T (2012) Cancers (Basel). 4(2):475-489. 

P190B RhoGAP has protumorigenic functions during MMTV-Neu mammary tumorigenesis and metastasis, Peter McHenry, James Sears, Matthew Herrick, Brandy Heckman-Stoddard, Peggy Chang, Megan Rybarczyk, Edward Gunther, Lewis Chodosh, Susan Hilsenbeck, Jeffrey Rosen, and Tracy Vargo-Gogola (2010) Breast Cancer Research Sep 22;12(5):R73 

Walther Cancer Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of Notre Dame, 2009

Kaneb Center Certificate for Excellence in Teaching, University of Notre Dame, 2008

Pathfinder Master Guide, Lake Region Conference of SDA, 2007

William Dale Leech Award, Union College, 2003

Rene Evard Award, Union College, 2003


Peter McHenry, Ph.D., researches with a focus on regulatory proteins in the cell that play a role in breast cancer progression. Breast cancer usually begins as a small tumor formed from cells lining the ducts of the mammary glands. At first, these cells merely proliferate to form a mass. In more advanced stages, the cells look abnormal and the organization of the tissue is altered. As the cancer progresses, the cells break through the protein capsule surrounding them and invade into nearby tissues. Eventually, these cells may metastasize by migrating through the lymphatic or circulatory systems and forming new tumors at distant locations in the body.  

Peter is interested in how Rho GTPases control invasion and metastatic progression. Rho proteins are often present at higher-than-normal levels or are more highly activated in breast cancer cells than in normal breast cells. Rho proteins toggle between an active and inactive state and act as control switches to regulate nearly every aspect of the cell: its shape, movement, specialized function, gene expression, protein secretion, communication with other cells, and even the protein matrix to which it is attached. There are 20 Rho proteins in human cells, but these are regulated by over 160 other proteins, forming a very complex signaling network.  

Peter is also interested in how a particular regulator of several Rho proteins, p190B RhoGAP, modifies the Rho signaling pathways to promote breast cancer. Currently, students in the lab are testing various Rho proteins for potential interactions with p190B. Peter is also interested in the functions of p190B to modify cell behavior through the growth factor TGF-beta and the hormone estrogen. His students are studying the way p190B protein levels affect these signaling pathways in breast cancer cells grown in culture.  

Biology Club

While at Union College, Peter McHenry, Ph.D., played viola in a string quartet that traveled all over the country. They also visited Canada and Brazil. His main instrument was violin, and when his children get older he hopes to start playing again. Peter also enjoys birding, biking, and swimming. He is married to an "intelligent, beautiful, and charming" biology professor whose office is conveniently located next to his. Having two Dr. McHenrys in the same department causes much confusion, so Peter is sometimes called "Mr. Doctor McHenry" and his wife is called "Mrs. Doctor McHenry." They have three little ones at home that are getting less little every day.