31 Days of Impact – Day 30, Dr. Trey Westbrook

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.

DR. THOMAS “TREY” WESTBOOK, HOUSTON, TEXAS – Scientific Researcher

“Watching someone you care about deeply go through the heartache of struggling with breast cancer is an immediate and daily reminder of the urgency to find a cure.”

“My research team at Baylor College of Medicine has been using new technology to discover the genes breast cancer cells depend on, and translating these discoveries into new therapies.”

“Thanks to Komen research grants, my colleagues and I – and researchers around the world – will continue to uncover new therapeutic opportunities for women fighting breast cancer.”

For me, cancer research is both a professional and personal passion. Watching someone you care about deeply go through the heartache of struggling with breast cancer is an immediate and daily reminder of the urgency to find a cure. I’ve experienced that first hand. Much of my family had to go through the trials of fighting cancer, and I have known for a long time that I wanted to address the fundamental problems in cancer – to take what we can learn about cancer and use this knowledge to help people.

I’m a geneticist – and most of my Komen-funded research is focused on applying novel genetic technologies that we developed to find new treatments for human breast cancer. Our new technology, sometimes called a functional genomics technology, enables us to scan the human genome for genes that play a role in cancer. We’re using these new tools to identify vulnerabilities of cancer cells and find ways to exploit them. Strikingly, some of our newest therapeutic targets are lethal only to cancer cells, while healthy, non-cancerous cells are spared.

With Komen-funded support, we’ve discovered that the very genes that are driving cancer are also creating new vulnerabilities. Our work is focused on finding and better understanding those weaknesses and turning those weaknesses into new medicines. Our work has inspired a new clinical trial for triple-negative breast cancer patients. Collaborating with our partners in the pharmaceutical industry, we are striving each day to ensure our discoveries are turned into real medicine.

I am grateful to Susan G. Komen for the Cure for funding my work. I’ve received $450,000 in Komen funding over the past 3 years to find new therapeutic strategies for triple-negative breast cancer. In 2011, we received a $180,000 grant for my research focused on HER2-positive cancer. Thanks to Komen research grants, my colleagues and I – and researchers around the world – can continue to discover new targeted therapies in order to help men and women defeat breast cancer. There’s a lot more research to be done and as someone with loved ones fighting cancer, my mission is to continue to work passionately towards finding a cure.

Read other impact stories.

About the author

avatar
Susan G. Komen has written 289 articles for Susan G. Komen® | Blog

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.