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Investigating Breast Cancer
Official Podcast of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation
Oct 14, 2021
Understanding Global Breast Cancer Disparities with Dr. Temidayo Fadelu
While academic and medical research has led to incredible breakthroughs in breast cancer care—including new treatments and screening methods—these advances have not reached every patient in every corner of the globe. With breast cancer now the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the world, it’s critical that lifesaving advances are deployed more equitably and universally—especially to women and men in lower-income and -resource countries. Dr. Fadelu discussed his work that lies at the intersection of breast cancer and global health services research Each year, BCRF underwrites several grants to breast cancer researchers in partnership with Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation. Dr. Temidayo Fadelu recently received the Career Development Award for Diversity, Inclusion and Breast Cancer Disparities. His BCRF-supported project aims to improve adherence to endocrine therapies among patients in Rwanda and Haiti.
Sep 1, 2021
Unraveling the Mysteries of Inherited Gene Mutations with Dr. Ephrat Levy-Lahad
How can genetic testing data encourage prevention and agency without amplifying personal fear? What can research reveal about genetic markers of risk and predisposition? Or, put differently, how can understanding one’s inherited risk improve approaches to precision prevention? Dr. Ephrat Levy-Lahad is on the forefront of this research, focusing on breast cancer–associated genetic mutations among various populations, including Arab and Ashkenazi Jewish women. She is a professor of internal medicine and medical genetics at Hebrew University and director of the Medical Genetics Institute at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.
Jul 30, 2021
Perfecting and Personalizing Risk Assessment with Dr. Katherine Nathanson
While breast cancer is not typically caused by inherited factors, as many as 10-15 percent of people diagnosed with breast cancer carry a known genetic mutation. The most well-known mutations are in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. But these only account for 5-10 percent of inherited breast cancers, so what about the many other gene mutations that increase a person’s risk of breast cancer? Also, what does this mean not only for genetic testing—but also how we should consider results? More significantly, what effect might this have on the personalization of risk? We talk with BCRF investigator and cancer geneticist Dr. Katherine Nathanson to answer these questions.
Jun 10, 2021
New Approaches to Reducing Repeat Breast Cancer Surgeries with Dr. Mehra Golshan
There are many challenges in managing breast cancer. Top among them is the fact that initial breast conserving surgeries often miss vestiges of a patient’s tumor. In fact, up to 40 percent of women require another procedure following lumpectomy. Not only can additional surgery, of course, increase a patient’s anxiety and be physically taxing, but it can cause delays in critical subsequent treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. So, why is that rate so high? Why is properly identifying the tumor so difficult? Most importantly: What can be done to reduce repeat surgeries? Dr. Mehra Golshan is working to uncover answers to these questions. A BCRF investigator since 2014, Dr. Golshan is the deputy chief medical officer for surgical services and director of the Breast Cancer Program for the Yale Cancer Center, Smilow Cancer Hospital, and Smilow Cancer Hospital Care Centers.
May 13, 2021
Improving the Quality of Life for Breast Cancer Patients and Survivors with Professor Dame Lesley Fallowfield
How do you measure quality of life? As researchers across fields discover new drug therapies or disease prevention—in breast cancer as well as other fields—science finds innumerable ways to measure physical results. But what about the social, behavioral, and psychological aspects of cancer care? And how should medical providers discuss such realties with patients? This is just one area of extraordinary impact that Professor Dame Lesley Fallowfield has made in medicine. Dame Lesley is professor of psycho-oncology at Brighton & Sussex Medical School at the University of Sussex where she is director of the Sussex Health Outcomes Research & Education in Cancer group. She has been a BCRF Investigator since 2016—the same year she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II for services to psycho-oncology.
Feb 25, 2021
Understanding Radiation Resistance and Barriers to Quality Care with Dr. Lori Pierce
For so many breast cancer patients, radiation therapy can bring extraordinary benefits—top among them improved survival rates and reduced recurrence. But there are also challenges and questions: Why do some people experience a recurrence after treatment? How can we reduce side effects? How can we ensure the right patients receive radiation therapy—and that the treatment works as well as possible? These are among the many medical mysteries to which Dr. Lori Pierce, BCRF investigator since 2003, has dedicated her career to answering.
Jan 27, 2021
Connecting the Dots Between Breast Cancer Risk and Obesity, with Dr. Vared Sterns
Women with breast cancer who are overweight or obese experience inferior outcomes compared to those with normal weight despite receiving optimal therapies. Dr. Vered Stearns discusses researching ways to reduce breast cancer recurrence through effective weight-loss interventions and why we need to bring more discoveries from the lab to the clinic. Dr. Stearns is a member of the BCRF Scientific Advisory Board and has been a BCRF Investigator since 2003.
Dec 10, 2020
BCRF Symposium and Awards Luncheon 2020
Each October, BCRF-funded investigators are honored at the Foundation’s Symposium & Awards Luncheon in New York City. This year, the program was held virtually, without the lunch—but with all of the important conversations and ideas. The annual event announces the Foundation’s grant investment for the coming year and recognizes BCRF investigators for their trailblazing scientific inquiry. This year’s program included an extraordinary symposium, moderated by BCRF Scientific Director Dr. Judy Garber, that included Dr. Angela DeMichele, Dr. William G. Kaelin Jr. and Dr. Lori J. Pierce. We’re proud to make their discussion available in a special episode of Investigating Breast Cancer.
Nov 25, 2020
Improving National and Global Racial Disparities in Breast Cancer Care with Dr. Funmi Olopade
Women of African descent are more likely to be diagnosed with aggressive breast cancers than white women and are more likely to die from their disease regardless of its type or stage. For those living in remote or low-resource areas, limited access to screening and genetic testing make improving outcomes even more challenging. In this episode of our podcast, Dr. Funmi Olopade, talks about her work in Africa and Chicago, the critical importance of precision medicine, and why she’s “impatient” about eliminating barriers to breast cancer care around the world. Dr. Olopade, a BCRF investigator since 2001, serves as the founding director of the Cancer Risk and Prevention Clinic and associate dean for global health, both at the University of Chicago.
Oct 28, 2020
A Closer Look at the Evolution of Breast Cancer Cells with Dr. Kornelia Polyak
The immune system plays a critical role in tumor growth by attacking cancer cells with white blood cells. Cancer cells that survive this immune attack can become invasive and metastatic (a process called immune escape). In this episode of Investigating Breast Cancer, Dr. Kornelia Polyak shares the impact of understanding breast cancer at a molecular level. Dr. Polyak, a BCRF investigator since 2008, is an internationally recognized leader in the breast cancer research field.
Sep 28, 2020
Exploring the Many Intersections of Health Equity in Latin America with Dr. Jeffrey Weitzel
While genetic testing and counseling for breast cancer has been available in the U.S. for many years, accessing these services in Mexico and the rest of Latin America is more challenging due to limited resources. Leading genetics researcher and oncologist, Dr. Jeffrey Weitzel, has devoted his career to decreasing these barriers. Dr. Weitzel, a BCRF investigator since 2013, is director of the Clinical Cancer Genetics Program and professor of oncology and population sciences at the Beckman Research Institute at City of Hope.
Aug 5, 2020
Closing the Gap in Breast Cancer Care with Dr. Mariana Chavez MacGregor
Research shows that when chemotherapy is delayed, a patient’s chance of survival falls significantly. Dr. Mariana Chavez MacGregor, a BCRF investigator since 2018, joined our podcast to talk about her work with underserved and underinsured patients—those who are most likely to experience delays—to develop personalized ways to improve healthcare access and, ultimately, outcomes. Dr. MacGregor is an associate professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, holding a primary appointment in the Health Services Research Department and a joint appointment in the Breast Medical Oncology Department.
Jun 30, 2020
The Promise and Potential of Breast Cancer Vaccines with Dr. Karen Anderson
One key goal in developing precision vaccines and immune therapies is to reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence. Yet currently, there is only one FDA-approved immunotherapy drug for breast cancer, and it benefits just a small subset of women. In this episode of Investigating Breast Cancer, we talk with Dr. Karen Anderson about vaccines, harnessing the power of a person’s immune system, and reducing the risk of breast cancer recurrence. And of course, we’d all like to know: What’s the progress? And how has COVID-19 impacted this research?
May 28, 2020
The Underlying Biology of Drug Resistance with Dr. Sarat Chandarlapaty
Advances in cancer therapy have dramatically contributed to the decline in breast cancer deaths over the last three decades. But even with these advances, drug resistance—when tumors stop responding to anti-cancer drugs—remains a serious clinical challenge. Dr. Sarat Chandarlapaty talks about the strategies to prevent cancer cells from evading the drugs designed to kill them. Dr. Chandarlapaty is a laboratory head at the Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He's also a BCRF Scientific Advisory Board member and has been a BCRF researcher since 2015.
Apr 28, 2020
A Cross-disciplinary Approach to Breast Cancer Research with Dr. Antonio Wolff
In the fight to understand and solve breast cancer, “it takes a village.” In this case, the village is more like a globally connected series of research labs, scientists, patients, funders and more. In other words, something that looks a lot like the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium (TBCRC). The TBCRC is a collaborative group founded in 2005 to conduct innovative and high-impact clinical trials for breast cancer led by Dr. Antonio Wolff. Dr. Wolff, a BCRF investigator since 2007, is the Chief Operating Officer for the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium (TBCRC).
Mar 24, 2020
Breast Cancer Care and COVID-19: From the Frontlines with Dr. Judy Garber
Breast cancer—and any cancer—can be incredibly stressful under the best of circumstances for patients, survivors, and their families. In this time of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), concerns can feel like they’re rising exponentially. So, what do we all need to know? With tons of new information bombarding us at once, what should cancer patients and families consider? Are there practical tactics or is there tangible guidance to stay safe? In this special episode of Investigating Breast Cancer, we talk to Dr. Judy Garber for the answers. Dr. Garber is BCRF’s scientific director and chief of the Division of Cancer Genetics and Prevention at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
Feb 28, 2020
Developing Personalized Risk Prediction with Dr. Mark Robson
Dr. Mark Robson talks about how he’s working to help identify the right tests for the right person at the right age How can researchers provide more precise risk estimates so that individuals with inherited risks can make informed decisions about their health, so that the right women are getting the right tests at the right age? Dr. Robson is conducting studies that employ advanced technologies that incorporate information from genetic tests to enhance the precision of genetic risk assessment in women with mutations in the BRCA gene.
Jan 17, 2020
Unraveling Metastatic Breast Cancer, with Dr. Martine Piccart
Dr. Martine Piccart talks to us about the power of collaboration in metastatic breast cancer research Metastasis, the spread of cancer cells from the breast to other sites in the body, is responsible for nearly all breast cancer deaths. Approximately 150,000 men and women are diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer each year. Today, BCRF is the largest private funder of this critical area of research. Dr. Martine Piccart is passionate about metastasis research and the vital role that international collaboration plays in her work. A BCRF investigator since 2004, Dr. Piccart’s research aims to better understand the origins of metastatic breast cancer and how it evolves. Through the Breast International Group (BIG), she oversees the AURORA-EU study, the Belgium-based arm of the Evelyn H. Lauder Founder’s Fund for Metastatic Breast Cancer Research. Named for BCRF’s founder, the Founder’s Fund is a multi-year, international collaboration. In 2019, AURORA-EU presented findings on t…
Dec 20, 2019
Young women and breast cancer, with Dr. Ann Partridge
For young women, a breast cancer diagnosis presents a unique set of challenges not only due to age, but the biology of the disease as well. While a diagnosis under the age of 40 is rare, the disease tends to behave more aggressively. Compared to older breast cancer patients, young women treated for the disease tend to have an increased risk of experiencing emotional distress, treatment-induced sexual dysfunction, and concerns about future pregnancies. This is where Dr. Ann Partridge steps in. Her BCRF-supported research seeks to understand the complex issues young women with breast cancer face. Dr. Partridge studies the biology behind their breast cancers as well as focusing on how young women make their way through their experiences – whether it’s physical or emotional. A BCRF researcher since 2016, Dr. Partridge is co-founder and director of the Young and Strong Program for Young Women with Breast Cancer, and serves as the Director of the Adult Survivorship Program…
Dec 2, 2019
BCRF Symposium & Awards Luncheon: Live from New York City
Every October, BCRF-funded researchers are honored at the annual Symposium & Awards Luncheon in New York City. This is when BCRF makes its formal announcement of research grants for the upcoming year and recognizes its investigators for their devotion to ending breast cancer with their trailblazing scientific inquiry. The event provides a unique opportunity for BCRF researchers to convene, share ideas and collaborate with fellow colleagues from around the world. This year’s program began with a symposium featuring an expert panel of BCRF investigators. They discussed current breaking topics in breast cancer research, ranging from prevention and diagnosis to treatment and survivorship. We’re proud to share that discussion here in this special bonus podcast.
1 hr 12 min
Oct 11, 2019
Mapping and understanding brain metastasis in breast cancer, with Dr. Priscilla Brastianos
Metastasis, when cancer cells leave the breast and spread to other sites in the body, is the major cause of mortality from breast cancer. The brain is one of the most common organs breast cancer invades, occurring in more than one third of patients with advanced breast cancer, up to 300,000 patients a year. The prognosis of cancer patients who develop brain metastasis is poor, with only 20 percent of patients surviving at one year. For Dr. Priscilla Brastianos, a BCRF investigator since 2017, this cause hits close to home. Both her mother and grandmother died of metastatic breast cancer. That’s why she has dedicated her career to better understanding brain metastasis. As the Director of the Central Nervous System Metastasis Program & Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, her research focuses on understanding the mechanisms driving metastatic disease to the brain. She is currently conducting studies to characterize the genetic a…
Sep 25, 2019
The De-Escalation of Therapy, with Dr. Eric Winer
How should we – patients, family, doctors – consider the careful balance in identifying patients who might benefit from less rigorous course of treatment? Dr. Eric Winer, a BCRF investigator since 2003, studies this concept. Known as “de-escalation of therapy,” this form of personalized medicine challenges the “one-size-fits-all” approach to breast cancer treatment. His current BCRF-supported study aims to improve quality of life by reducing post-surgery chemotherapy in carefully selected patients with early-stage HER2 positive breast cancer and an excellent prognosis. Dr. Winer is Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Chief, Division of Women's Cancers and the Thompson Senior Investigator in Breast Cancer Research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He is also the recipient of BCRF’s 2019 Jill Rose Award for scientific excellence and the Westchester Women’s Award in honor of Marla Mehlman.
Aug 16, 2019
What Should I Eat? We asked Dr. Walter Willett
“What should I eat?” It’s a question that Dr. Walter Willett thinks about every day as a researcher focused on the intersection of diet, lifestyle and health. Dr. Willett, a BCRF investigator since 2001, is widely considered a global leader on nutrition research. His research aims to characterize the impact of diet and lifestyle on health outcomes, especially in relation to breast cancer risk. As the most cited nutritionist worldwide, his work has influenced numerous health recommendations and continues to inform preventive strategies for breast cancer. Dr. Willett is Chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health.
Jul 12, 2019
Improving breast cancer diagnosis and care in remote and low resource communities, with Dr. Lawrence Shulman
Did you ever think you’d end up working in Africa?Neither did Dr. Lawrence Shulman. But then we never had Paul Farmer as our intern. Dr. Shulman – an oncologist who specializes in breast cancer – did.Farmer, if you don’t know, is the American anthropologist and doctor who in 1987 co-founded Partners in Health, an international non-profit that, in its own words, brings “health care to the world’s poorest families.” That means in places like Haiti and Rwanda.Which is why some eight years ago, Shulman found himself in Rwanda, as he wrote, walking “through hospital wards filled with patients with advanced cancers, who had never had a biopsy or diagnosis, and had no options for treatment.” He continued: “I knew that many of these patients would survive if they had access to the types of treatments available in the United States, and I was determined to help bring these treatment options to patients in Rwanda.”And that’s what Shulman has done. He has helped establish…
Jun 14, 2019
Focusing on early treatment, with Dr. Luca Gianni
You likely know the expression, Pay It Forward. It’s an important concept for any kind of social awareness, but it can carry special meaning as well in the breast cancer world, particularly in research.That’s because so much of today’s important breakthroughs are built not only on yesterday’s participation of other patients, but, of course, the work of other researchers. It’s a sentiment Dr. Luca Gianni not only knows well, but also puts into practice every day.As you’ll hear, in this important and engaging conversation, Dr. Gianni remains grateful to his mentor – Dr. Gianni Bonadonna – who brought him into the National Institute for the Study and Treatment of Cancer in Milan, Italy some 40 years ago. Based on what he learned there, Dr. Gianni has since delivered numerous breakthroughs in cancer research.Onea main treatment – particularly in women with locally advanced or inflammatory HER2-positive breast cancer.Now he is taking that same mindset – focus on early tr…
May 9, 2019
Evaluating natural cancer treatments with Dr. Susan Horwitz
Can life change with a single letter in the mail? For my guest today, it did, and subsequently, so did the lives of millions of people with various forms of cancer, including breast cancer. The letter in question came from the National Cancer Institute in 1977. The recipient was Dr. Susan Horwitz. The result: The creation of one of the most important cancer drugs that come from a natural product: Taxol, which is isolated from the yew plant. Today it is given to over a million patients. As you’ll hear, Dr. Horwitz work – indeed, her incredible curiosity – didn’t end there. She has continued to investigate new cancer treatments that leverage natural products. Why? Take triple negative breast cancer. By definition, it’s among the most challenging cancers to treat, comprising some 15-20 percent of all breast cancers. These aggressive tumors are treated with a cocktail of chemotherapy drugs. And although many patients have excellent survival following treatment,…
Apr 12, 2019
Inspiration and insight from breast cancer patients, with Dr. Gabriel Hortobagyi
At first glance, it would seem that any of us who follow the breast cancer experience would look to the investigators – the scientists, researchers and their teams – for inspiration. They are, after all, dedicating their lives to fighting cancer. In this conversation, you’ll hear the opposite. To listen to Dr. Gabriel Hortobagyi, you hear the inspiration and insight that he and his teams gain from the grace of breast cancer patients – in particular, people who have triple negative breast cancer and their families. You’ll also hear about the unique, novel research that Dr. Hortobagyi and his colleagues are doing to investigate resistance to various therapies and ways to develop combination therapy to overcome the resistance. This was a powerful, thoughtful, hopeful conversation with a scientist who knows, as he says, that the patient is the most important player on the team. More about Dr. Hortobagyi – he is a Professor in the Department of Breast Medical Oncology at the…
Feb 4, 2019
New strategies to prevent and treat metastatic breast cancer, with Dr. Sofia Merajver
Dr. Sofia Merajver is a professor of Internal Medicine and Epidemiology at the University of Michigan, where she is also Scientific Director of the Merajver Breast Cancer Research Program and Director of the Breast and Ovarian Cancer Risk Evaluation Program. As you’ll hear, Dr. Merajver – who has been a BCRF Investigator since 2004 – discusses her unique, collaborative and extraordinarily human approach to one of the most significant science questions of our time: How to find new strategies for the prevention and treatment of metastatic breast cancer.
Jan 9, 2019
Avoiding chemotherapy, with Dr. Joseph Sparano
It was among the biggest cancer news stories of the year: A new study – the largest breast cancer treatment trial ever conducted – showed no benefit from chemotherapy for 70 percent of women with the most common type of breast cancer. As the Washington Post described, that means: “most patients who have an intermediate risk of a cancer recurrence — a group that numbers 65,000 women a year in the United States — can avoid chemotherapy and its often debilitating side effects.” The TAILORx trial, as it is known, is helping change everyday procedures in the everyday lives of patients around the world. And the lead author is our guest today. Dr. Joseph Sparano is Professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He is Vice-Chair, ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group and has been a BCRF Investigator since 2012. I asked Dr. Sparano about the TAILORx study and how it feels to have been part of such landmark work. But I also asked Dr. Sparano about what’s next – about new work he…
Dec 6, 2018
How does cancer grow?, with Dr. Ben Ho Park
How does cancer grow? Why do some cancers react positively to treatment while others seem to resist? Understanding these relationships, the genetic events and cell-to-cell interactions that lead to cancer, not only can provide better understanding of how cancer develops, but also drive potential new targets for drug development. Understanding these relationships also essential to the incredible work being done by Dr. Ben Ho Park. Dr. Park was recently appointed as co-leader of the Breast Cancer Research Program, Associate Director for Translational Research, and Director of Precision Oncology at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville. He's been a BCRF investigator since 2008, and as you'll hear at the top, he also has a unique creative talent that surely won't directly lead to solving breast cancer, but it does to seem to make his lab an engaging and fun place to work. And who knows, perhaps in some way that creative culture is part of what inspires Dr. Park's creative resea…
Nov 12, 2018
Making a difference in patients' lives, with Dr. Hedvig Hricak
Dr. Hedvig Hricak: is, among many other roles, Chairman, Department of Radiology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. She also recently was honored by BCRC with the 2018 Jill Rose Award for outstanding research excellence. As you will hear, Dr. Hricak is extraordinary – not just in her work helping merge imaging technology with molecular medicine, but also in her teaching across borders. Among her wonderful lines in this conversation: “The best thing in life is to give,” and “The richness of life is in diversity.” Another one: “You are only as good as your tomorrow. So you have to continuously reinvest yourself. You have to learn and believe that with your experience, you’ll make a difference in patients’ lives.” Listen to this podcast, and you’ll know exactly what she means and the difference she makes in patients’ lives.
Sep 30, 2018
Studying breast cancer at the single cell level, with Dr. Michael Wigler
Breast cancer and technology. At first glance, they seem like totally separate topics. After this conversation, you’ll not only better understand the connection, but you’ll be waiting to learn what comes next. As you’ll hear, thanks to technology developed by our guest Dr. Michael Wigler – in collaboration with BCRF colleague James Hicks – researchers can now study breast cancer at the single-cell level, setting the stage for the development of new diagnostic tools that will aid in therapeutic management of the disease. Since then, Dr. Wigler has continued to go small – focusing on the interactions between cancer cells and the host microenvironment. It’s a fascinating approach. Some background: Dr. Michael Wigler is the Russell and Janet Doubleday Professor of Cancer Research at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. He is a recipient of numerous awards and honors and is a member of the National Academy of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Dr.…
Sep 6, 2018
Managing the stress of cancer treatments, with Dr. Annette Stanton
Today, we have an outstanding and thoughtful conversation on stress, breast cancer, and the science of survivorship. We all, of course, experience stress, work, family, money, but what about health, in particular, cancers like breast cancer? Obviously dealing with illness, indeed dealing with ongoing treatments and procedures brings stress to a whole new level. How can women undergoing breast cancer treatments manage that stress? Perhaps more significantly, are there scientifically researched and proven approaches that not only help increase their health and wellbeing, but even improve the recovery process and results? This is the important work that Dr. Annette Stanton does. Dr. Stanton is Professor of Psychology and Psychiatrist Bio-Behavioral Sciences at UCLA. She's also a senior research scientist at the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology and a member of the Center for Cancer Prevention and Control Research in the Johnson Comprehensive Cancer Center. Through research,…
Jul 30, 2018
Attacking cancer's weaknesses, with Dr. Alan Ashworth
It sounds like something out of Game of Thrones: Attack the weakness. Today, we apply the phrase to a more important and real battle – the one against breast cancer. As you’ll hear, Dr. Alan Ashworth is part of a team that developed something called PARP Inhibitors and, quite creatively, identified ways to use them to attack the weaknesses of various cancers, including breast cancer. As a recent new report noted, “with three recent FDA approvals, and a number of Phase 3 trials ongoing, the drugs are seeing a surge in interest.” How do PARP Inhibitors work and what might they mean for attacking cancers’ weaknesses? That’s just part of what I discussed with Dr. Ashworth. Some background: He’s the President, UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center; Senior Vice President for Cancer Services of UCSF Health; and a Professor in the Division of Hematology/Oncology at UCSF’s Department of Medicine. Dr. Ashworth is an elected member of EMBO, t…
Jun 30, 2018
A Closer Look at Metastatic Breast Cancer with Dr. Robert Schneider
Most women who die of breast cancer die from metastatic disease, the spread of tumor cells to different parts of the body. Metastasis often results following treatment failure, but it also can occur decades after what was thought to be successful treatment. Currently, no curative therapies exist for metastatic breast cancer. But today, the race to develop effective treatments for this disease is a key focus of some extraordinary research, much of it centering on cancer cells’ protein synthesis machinery and a protein called mTOR. What’s the status of this research – and what might some practical outcomes look like? I just had an incredibly thoughtful conversation with Dr. Robert Schneider. He’s the Associate Director of the NYU Cancer Institute, Director of Translational Cancer Research, and Co-director of the Breast Cancer Research Program at NYU School of Medicine. He’s also a BCRF Investigator since 2002.
May 30, 2018
How randomized clinical trials can inform breast cancer prevention strategies, with Dr. Jack Cuzick
Well-designed randomized clinical trials may provide information about prevention strategies and effective treatments for women at risk of, or diagnosed with, breast cancer. A major limitation of clinical trials, however, is that results apply to the trial group as a whole, but not necessarily to each individual woman. That’s because individual responses are influenced by the patient's and the tumor's unique DNA, or genetic profile. So how might researchers precisely identify risks for individual women based on protein and gene biomarkers to predict outcomes for breast cancer treatment or even prevention? Dr. Jack Cuzick is a Director of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine in London. He is also head of the Centre for Cancer Prevention and John Snow Professor of Epidemiology at Queen Mary, University of London. In 2007, he was chosen by Thompson Scientific as one of the 12 hottest researchers in all of science. He was awarded the AACR Cancer Prevention Prize in 2012. He has…
Apr 30, 2018
All about immunotherapy with Dr. Jedd Wolchock
Immunotherapy – treating a disease by inducing, enhancing, or suppressing an immune response – remains one of the biggest hopes in terms of potentially finding a breast cancer cure. And yet, it also remains an incredibly challenging discipline. What works for one type of cancer may not for another. Why is that? What lessons can researchers take from successful cases – melanoma, lung or other cancers – and apply to breast cancer? And where, exactly, are researchers in finding an immunology answer for breast cancer? To find out, I spoke with one the nation’s leading researchers in the field, Dr. Jedd Wolchok. Dr. Wolchok is Chief of the Melanoma and Immunotherapeutics Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. A BCRF Investigator since 2011, he has helped establish the center as a leader in the discovery and treatment of cancers with novel immunotherapies. He has been at the forefront of cancer immunotherapy, as an active clinician scientist exploring innovative strateg…
Mar 22, 2018
Innovations in tracking cancer through the body with Dr. Peter Kuhn
What if we could track where the cancer is moving through the body, not by evasive biopsies, but rather through a common procedure we go through nearly anytime we visit a doctor. A simple blood draw. That's just one of the innovations I discussed with Dr. Peter Kuhn. It was a terrific conversation. Dr. Kuhn is not your typical researcher, part scientist. Kuhn's a physicist by training and part entrepreneur. That mix of disciplines comes across in how he thinks and how he approaches his work. It clearly drives his unique approach to helping find a breast cancer cure, not to mention the 16 patents that have been filed as a result of his research. Some background. Dr. Kuhn is the Dean's Professor of Biological Sciences and Professor of Medicine and Engineering, as well as a founding member of the Michelson Center for Convergent Bio-sciences at USC. He's a founding member of a new institute of convergent sciences and Director of the Southern California Physics Oncology Center. Dr. Kuhn has…
Jan 19, 2018
Genetic variants that may cause breast cancer, with Dr. Fergus Couch
My guest is Dr. Fergus Couch who is, among many other roles, Professor and Chair of the Division of Experimental Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Couch works on the genetics of breast cancer, discovering and understanding the connections of inherited genetic variance in cancer susceptibility genes. He's also a BCRF Grand Tee since 2007. Dr. Couch has more than 300 publications, but the one we focused on came just a few months ago and it was an incredibly big deal. The outcomes were published in the prestigious publications Nature and Nature Genetics. Dr. Fergus and other scientists reported findings by a major international consortium identifying an incredible 65 previously unknown common genetic variants that predisposed individuals to breast cancer. They also found seven others that are specific for triple negative breast cancer, the highly aggressive forms of the disease. In all, that's 72 new genetic variants that contribute to breast cancer risk. The numb…
Jan 4, 2018
How the environment impacts breast cancer, with Dr. Mary Beth Terry
While much of the focus around breast cancer rightfully looks at preexisting genetics, an important part of finding a cure also means looking at what's happening outside the body, specifically the environment. How does the air we breathe and chemicals we ingest every day potentially put us more at risk for the disease? What can be done to prevent it? As you'll hear, the work is a blend of intensely modern science and old-fashioned, hard-nosed research. Dr. Mary Beth Terry is a cancer epidemiologist and professor at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. Dr. Terry's work centers on improving breast cancer risk models for high-risk families, finding ways to measure exposure to chemical pollutants, and non-genetic changes to DNA that can be a result of both biologic and environmental exposures. She's also a BCRF grantee since 2005. How might our daily environment impact the potential for breast cancer? That's what I asked Dr. Terry.
Oct 19, 2017
How and why cancer recurs with Dr. Nancy Davidson
My conversation today is with Dr. Nancy Davidson, simply one of the leading breast cancer researchers we have. Dr. Davidson characterizes herself as a physician scientist. She directly connects the human aspect of what she does, working with patients, with her research that has delivered key discoveries that are now common practice in breast cancer care. Dr. Davidson's current research dives into one of the most challenging areas of breast cancer or any cancer, really, recurrence. For individuals who have fought and won their cancer battles Dr. Davidson is looking at how and why cancer recurs, and importantly, how might that recurrence be prevented in the first place. This is the most recent of a lifetime of highly consequential research, care, and discovery that's defined Dr. Davidson's career. Some highlights. Dr. Davidson is senior vice president of the clinical research division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. She is president and executive director of the…
Oct 1, 2017
The Importance of Patients as Partners, with Dr. Nikhil Wagle
We begin today with a statistic that is immediately concerning and curious: mortality from breast cancer is higher in black women than in white women. Among the challenges in studying this problem is a lack of data. That's because only a small fraction of the cancer genome atlas, that's the catalog of genetic mutations responsible for cancer, is comprised of African American patients. That's just one of the many obstacles in investing breast cancer that Dr. Nikhil Wagle is trying to solve. Dr. Wagle is assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and medical oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where he also is deputy director of the Center for Cancer Precision Medicine. Another hat that Dr. Wagle wears is leading the Metastatic Breast Cancer Project, a wide ranging effort to gather more breast cancer data, particularly from under-represented populations. I think you'll really enjoy this conversation. Dr. Wagle connects the personal with the science. As you'll…
Aug 23, 2017
The strength of the immune is about the diversity of a response, with Dr. Karen Anderson
Among the many powerful and intriguing things that Dr. Karen Anderson told me during our terrific conversation: Vaccines have changed the course of human events. This line – combined with the inspiration Dr. Anderson felt when completing her studies – helped lead her to the important and challenging work she does now: Breast cancer vaccine development, with a long-range goal to deliver vaccines to reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence after surgery. Her research focuses on how the immune system can be harnessed to detect and alter cancer development. Dr. Anderson, also, is a current member of the NCI Cancer Biomarker Study section, and has published over 40 peer-reviewed publications. Let's get to the obvious question. What's a translational researcher? That's where our conversation began.
Jun 23, 2017
The role of obesity in breast cancer, with Dr. Neil Iyengar
It sounds like a simple question. What is obesity? But like most simple questions, the answer is not as obvious as it may seem. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls obesity "A national epidemic causing higher medical costs and a lower quality of life." The CDC also notes that obesity is a contributing cause of many other health problems, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some types of cancer.Understanding the relationship between obesity and breast cancer can become located. Not only is there the question of measurement. Is the traditional view of body mass index always accurate or sufficient? But also, important questions around assessing risk. How might the measurement of body composition and blood based factors associated with fat inflammation help develop more precise cancer risk assessments and prognostic strategies? Dr. Neil Iyengar is at the forefront of researching and addressing these questions. He studies obesity, and in particular its relations…
Apr 3, 2017
A cross disciplinary approach to cancer esearch, with Dr. Daniele Gilkes and Dr. Paul Macklin
Our series is focusing on scientist, thinkers, and leaders who drive the insights and breakthroughs of breast cancer research. Today's conversation proves a simple math problem: two is better than one. Actually today's conversation also tackles some really complicated math and science. Specifically, how applied mathematics and tumor biology are coming together to drive important new research in breast cancer and metastasis. Doctor Daniele Gilkes is assistant professor of oncology. As well as an assistant professor in chemical and molecular engineering at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. This is her first year as a BCRF grantee. Doctor Paul Macklin is an associate professor of intelligent systems engineering, and a member of the Melvin & Bren Simon Cancer Center at Indiana University. He's a BCRF grantee since 2014. Together, Gilkes and Macklin are apart of a new partnership between the BCRF and the Jayne Koskinas Ted Giovanis Foundation for Health and Policy that link…
Jan 24, 2017
What the beginning of breast cancer looks like, with Dr. Anna Maria Storniolo
What does the beginning of breast cancer look like? What happens – at the very start – that turns normal breast tissue into the first stages of cancer? And by recognizing these early molecular changes and pathway alterations, could we not only improve our understanding of the evolution of breast cancer… but also, one would hope, find a way to stop it before it even begins? These questions are hardly philosophical. They go to the heart of important research that has been and is being led by Dr. Anna Maria Storniolo. Dr. Storniolo is a Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Department of Hematology/Oncology at the Indiana University School of Medicine. She is also Director of the Catherine Peachey Breast Cancer Prevention Program, a comprehensive program providing risk assessment and counseling for women who may be at risk for developing breast cancer. She also has been a BCRF Grantee since 2007.
Dec 12, 2016
Getting back to normal, with Dr. Debra Barton
The list of symptoms associated with cancers of all kinds is of course extraordinarily long. Particularly, among breast cancer survivors, these can include fatigue, hot flashes, and cognitive changes related to chemotherapy, nausea and vomiting, and sexual health, just to name a few. Of those, while sexual health and functioning have been reported in over 50% of women diagnosed with breast or gynecologic cancer. In most cases, these issues are not a part of standard cancer care which is where the research comes in. How can various physical symptoms, fatigue, body image, and partner issues predict overall sexual health among cancer survivors? What interventions, from clinical, to medications, to behavioral, show the most promise? Dr. Debra Barton is the Mary Lou Willard French professor of nursing at the University of Michigan School of Nursing. She has spent her career looking at symptom management from multiple perspectives and finding ways to use more than one intervention to reduce…
Dec 6, 2016
Why research is so important, with Dr. Michael Clarke
Among the many challenges with breast cancer and breast cancer research is metastasis when cancer cells break away from a tumor and travel to distant parts of the body. Within this collection of cells is an important minority group, breast cancer stem cells. These cells are ultimately responsible for cancer related death in women with the disease and understanding how they work is central to much of today's research. At the forefront of that research, Dr. Michael Clarke. Dr. Clarke is a Professor of Medicine at Stanford University and since 2005, a BCRF grantee. He is also the Karel and Avice Beekhuis Professor in Cancer Biology and Associate Director of the Stanford Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine. In 2003, Clarke's lab was the first to identify breast cancer stem cells. Since then, among other findings, Clarke's team has identified two genes critical for stem cell functions including a gene that regulates normal stem cell dormancy which can drive the unpredi…
Nov 28, 2016
The intersection of cancer and aging, with Dr. Arti Hurria
Among the many important research areas of breast cancer and frankly all cancers is what's called survivorship; quality of life and the ability to live independently. Among older survivors, one area of concern: cognitive decline or memory loss. This is one of the areas that Dr. Arti Hurria studies. Dr. Hurria and her team focus on older, long-term breast cancer survivors looking at memory difference between those who received chemotherapy versus those who did not compared to healthy women of the same age who never had cancer. What might their discoveries offer in terms of predicting potential memory issues among survivors and, importantly, creating interventions to preserve capabilities and the highest possible quality of life? Dr. Hurria is director of the Cancer and Aging Research Program at City of Hope. She is also co-leader of their Cancer Control and Population Sciences Program. A medical oncologist, Dr. Hurria recently joined the board of directors for the American Society of C…
Nov 14, 2016
The outside of a cancer cell matters too, with Dr. Mina Bissell
it’s what’s on the inside that matters. It turns out that for cells – including cancer cells – the outside matters a whole lot, too. Specifically, the interactions between the extracellular matrix and the microenvironment -- the physical context and the connection between the outside of a cell and the inside – is central to how that cell behaves… and, for cancer cells, how they might grow, spread, or most importantly, be stopped. It’s hard to overstate the magnitude of this breakthrough for biology, cancer research, and importantly, breast cancer research. This singular discovery rewrote decades of scientific understanding, and redirected vast amounts of future research and success. It occurred because of what’s been called the “controversial insistence” of Dr. Mina Bissell. Dr. Bissell is a Distinguished Scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at UC Berkeley. She’s also one of the most honored scientists in the world. Among her many awards, Dr. Bis…