By: Glendon Zinser, Ph.D.
Komen Scientific Grants Manager
The last 30 years have brought about astounding changes in the way people look at, talk about, diagnose and treat breast cancer. The more than three million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. today are proof of how far we’ve come in both early detection and improved treatments. We know now that, just like the women and men it affects, breast cancer varies greatly from person to person, and therefore, breast cancer therapy is not a one-size- fits-all approach. Now, with more than $150 million invested into research focused on personalized medicine, Komen is proud to be a leader in this important area of discovery.
Today, we’re excited to share news of work led by a Komen-supported researcher, Dr. Aleix Prat, who is a pioneer in the field of personalized medicine. Dr. Prat is helping to ensure that all patients receive the very best treatment for their breast cancer and he is also helping healthcare providers better understand the unique properties of breast tumors.
Last year, Komen announced that Dr. Prat, Principal Investigator of the Translational Genomics Group at the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO), would receive a Career Catalyst Research (CCR) Grant for $450,000 over three years to study HER2-positive breast cancer. CCR grants are awarded to promising early career scientists who have had extensive training in the field of breast cancer but who have only recently begun directing the research focus of their own laboratory. The CCR recipients’ hypothesis-driven research has significant potential to advance our mission of a world without breast cancer.
Dr. Prat’s CCR funded project focuses on HER2-positive breast cancer, which is a very aggressive type of cancer and it accounts for 15-20 percent of all diagnosed cases. With this CCR grant, coupled with previous research funded by Komen, Dr. Prat and his team have shown that 1) HER2-positive breast cancer can be classified as four different subtypes of breast cancer according to respective molecular characteristics and, 2) this sub-classification can help predict response to chemotherapy and anti-HER2 treatment, such as Herceptin (trastuzumab).
While this type of tumor profiling requires additional investigation before it becomes a clinical standard, the implications of this work for patients are extremely promising. In short – it means that physicians and oncologists will have access to essential information for determining the benefits of treatment, as well as a better understanding of both the short-term and long-term risks of breast cancer relapse. Oncologists will be able to better advise their patients about which anti-HER2 therapy, endocrine therapy, or chemotherapy may be the most beneficial for their individual breast cancer.
We look forward to many more important findings from Dr. Prat and our other Komen-funded researchers around the globe as we continue, together, towards our vision of a world without breast cancer.
Be sure to read more about Dr. Prat’s published findings and Komen’s investment into personalized medicine.
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