Using the Tumor DNA Blueprint of Breast Cancer Patients as a Key to Personalized Medicine
Guest post by Matthew J. C. Ellis , M.B., B.Chir., Ph.D., FRCP Anheuser Busch Professor of Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine and head of breast oncology at the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine and Jerome Jourquin, Ph.D., Scientific Grants Manager, Susan G. Komen
The term “cancer genomics” is the study of the genetic code or DNA blueprint of tumor cells to determine how cancer cells behave differently from normal cells. In the field of breast cancer research, genomic investigation has already led too better tools to manage this disease in a number of ways – from describing different biological subtypes of breast cancer to the design of new targeted treatments, such as trastuzumab. However most of the vast amount of new information recently generated on the genetic code of breast cancer is very poorly understood, but if we could gain deeper insights, we would discover new biological keys to unlock doors that currently block access to solutions for some of the most difficult problems, such as why cancers are all too often resistant to standard treatments. To answer this challenge, Susan G. Komen will invest millions of dollars in research projects that will further decrypt the DNA blueprint of tumors from breast cancer patients in order to extract the medical value of this information and deliver individualized and more effective treatment plans to patients.
For example, this year, Komen will fund the research of Dr. Christina Curtis, an Assistant Professor at the University of Southern California. She will investigate differences in the genetic material of HER2-positive tumors before and after treatment with trastuzumab to develop a tool that will predict treatment resistance in patients receiving that drug. Dr. Curtis will then use this knowledge to design new therapies that will overcome resistance to trastuzumab.
Other newly-funded investigators include Dr. Richard Myers, President, Director and Investigator at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. His team will analyze DNA blueprints from individual patients’ tumors with the goal of providing patients with the best treatment options available, personalized to their specific tumor. Dr. Meyers will particularly focus on analyzing ER-positive tumors in postmenopausal women to determine which tumors have DNA blueprints that would make them more sensitive to a treatment combination of letrozole and bevacizumab.
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.