31 Days of Impact – Day 7, Dr. Carlos Arteaga
The story of breast cancer is the story of people. Learn about Komen’s impact and work in the fight against breast cancer as told through the eyes of breast cancer survivors, researchers, community health workers and advocates. Read more stories.
CARLOS ARTEAGA M.D., NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – Director of the Breast Cancer Program at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center
“What keeps us going is the realization that we are about to cure many types of breast cancer. “
“My hope is that my work will continue to move the field of breast cancer research forward and lead to the next generation of “smart drugs.”
“We must continue to expand on the incredible work we have already done and meet each new challenge head on until we find a cure – I am committed to working towards that goal.”
I am often asked for my thoughts on the overall progress in the field of breast cancer research and how much of that can be attributed to basic research. While it is undeniable that the mortality rate of breast cancer continues to decrease, I firmly believe that that are multiple contributing factors. Our screening technologies have improved immensely, mammography is aiding in early detection even in underdeveloped worlds, and for those in advanced stages of diseases we have developed an increasing number of new therapies that are the products of molecular research. It is a combination of all these things, and patient awareness that is bringing us closer to finding a cure.
A commitment to basic research and continuing to improve current technologies, however, remains the driving force behind our progress. Organizations such as Susan G. Komen for the Cure have been an immense help in supporting our breast cancer research over the years. After serving as a member of the Komen Scholars (Komen’s 68-member panel of clinicians, researchers and advocates who advise Komen on promising science) for two years, I was then invited to join the Komen Scientific Advisory Board to assist with their research and further their education mission. The breast cancer research that I engage in is aimed at explaining the role of several key proteins, pathways and growth factor receptors in the pathogenesis of breast cancer. My hope is that by characterizing these pathways, we can begin to identify the particular ones that are responsible for breast cancer cell growth, division and metastasis.
The identification of these pathways will eventually lead to improvements in what remains the ultimate goal of my work: to promote new targeted clinical trials with patient enrollment based on pre-determined biomarkers. We have to establish a more sensitive screening process when selecting patients for our trials so that we can better predict who will benefit from the drugs. Ten years ago we had limited treatment options and our tests were not very targeted. Now with the power of molecular technology we can select patients who are likely to directly benefit from the therapies while sparing those who won’t.
It is vital we bring increased awareness to the developments that have been made within molecular research, and in 2011 I was given the opportunity to do so when honored with the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in basic science and clinical research. The award recognized my work in explaining the role of several key proteins and growth factor receptors in the pathogenesis of breast cancer. This translational research helped provide the rationale for many of our new targeted molecular therapies
My hope is that my contributions will continue to move the field of breast cancer research forward and lead to the next generation of “smart drugs.” We must continue to expand on the incredible work we have already done and meet each new challenge head on until we find a cure – I am committed to working towards that goal.
Read other impact stories here.
About the author
Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the Cure®, we have invested more than $1.9 billion to fulfill our promise, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.