The project represents a multidisciplinary team of scientists from a consortium that also includes Walter Reed Army Medical Center and DecisionQ Inc. in Washington D.C., as well as the Windber Research Institute and MDR Global Inc. in Windber, Pa.
The principal investigator, Hallgeir Rui, M.D., Ph.D., is a professor of Cancer Biology and Medical Oncology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University. The co-principal investigator and leader of the clinical investigations associated with the project is Edith Mitchell, M.D., medical oncologist and clinical professor of Medicine and Medical Oncology at Thomas Jefferson University and Associate Director of Diversity Programs for the Kimmel Cancer Center.
The team will use the funds to investigate methods to optimize selection of patients for breast cancer treatment. There are two parts to the translational research: laboratory and clinical.
In the laboratory, Dr. Rui and colleagues will analyze tumor biomarkers that could possibly be used to stratify patients and tailor the best therapy to the individual patient.
“Identification of therapy-relevant biomarkers is a crucial part of breast cancer research, as there are many different biomarkers that could predict treatment response and outcome, and serve as targets for treatment,” said Dr. Rui. “There are many subtypes of breast cancer, and we want to identify protein biomarker patterns that can be used to make sure patients are offered the most appropriate therapy.”
On the clinical side, Dr. Mitchell is leading a clinical trial of a new drug called motesanib. This trial will enroll approximately 70 patients with triple-negative breast cancer or another form of aggressive breast cancer that has failed prior therapy. The purpose is to correlate clinical outcomes with the presence of specific biomarkers.
Triple-negative breast cancer, which has an increased frequency in African-American women, is a difficult cancer to treat,” Dr. Mitchell said. “It often lacks response to many commonly used treatments; therefore, there is a great need to identify more effective therapies for this patient population. Understanding molecular pathways may enhance opportunities to develop personalized approaches to the treatment of breast cancer. This is particularly important, since approximately 40,000 patients a year die from the disease in the United States alone.”