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BCRF Investigators Honored at the 2023 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium

By BCRF | January 24, 2024

Three researchers were recognized for advances that have transformed our understanding of breast cancer

The San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS) is the world’s largest international conference devoted to breast cancer research. Held annually, it provides the optimal venue to recognize researchers for their outstanding contributions to the field. This year, three BCRF investigators received the meeting’s top honors.

Dr. Jack Cuzick (center) accepting the McQuire Memorial Lecture Award. © SABCS/Todd Buchanan

Dr. Jack Cuzick received the William L. McGuire Memorial Lecture Award for his contributions to the prevention and treatment of early-stage breast cancer, commitment to collaboration, and leadership in breast cancer research. A subset of Dr. Cuzick’s accomplishments, supported in part through BCRF funding since 2011, include identifying the role of tamoxifen in the prevention of a second breast cancer after initial diagnosis, delineating the role of breast density in increasing breast cancer risk, and developing the pivotal Tyrer-Cuzick model, a breast cancer risk assessment tool that clinicians still use daily to calculate their patients’ breast cancer risk. 

In his lecture, Dr. Cuzick presented major milestones in breast cancer prevention as well as the results from his key clinical trials including the International Breast Cancer Intervention Study (IBIS-1), and the Arimidex, Tamoxifen, Alone or in Combination (ATAC) trial. His enthusiasm for research was evident as he highlighted the importance of continued investigation in this exciting and promising field.

Dr. Kornelia Polyak delivering her Award Lecture. ©SABCS/Todd Buchanan

The 16th AACR Distinguished Lectureship in Breast Cancer Research was awarded to Dr. Kornelia Polyak for her pioneering research on the role of the tumor microenvironment and intra-tumor heterogeneity in tumor evolution. Her investigations have spearheaded major advances in our understanding of how normal cells transform into cancer cells. In addition, she has demonstrated that the immune microenvironment in ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) becomes suppressed during the progression to invasive cancer. In her lecture, Dr. Polyak described how years of research—supported by BCRF since 2008—have led her to conclude that cancer is a systemic disease, and that an individual’s pre-existing immunity can influence breast cancer progression.

Dr. Polyak accepted the award on behalf of the talented scientists who have worked alongside her in the laboratory. She graciously acknowledged her many collaborators who, over the course of her 25-year career, have been valued partners devoted to advancing our knowledge of breast cancer tumor biology.

Dr. Alana Welm delivering her lecture after accepting the award. ©SABCS/Todd Buchanan

Dr. Alana Welm, a BCRF investigator since 2022, was honored with the AACR Outstanding Investigator Award for Breast Cancer Research for her impactful research dedicated to understanding the fundamental biology of metastatic breast cancer and for translating these findings into new and life-changing therapeutic approaches. She has been a leader in the development of innovative human breast cancer models called patient-derived xenografts (PDXs) that accurately reflect the behavior of metastatic cancer and response to treatment. PDX models are highly regarded as the gold standard for recapitulating breast cancer in the lab. Indeed, several clinical trials have been developed based on preclinical studies that leveraged their unique characteristics, demonstrating their utility.

In her lecture, Dr. Welm highlighted the importance of PDX models, namely in ensuring the growing number of approved therapies are appropriately matched to the individual patient to achieve greater efficacy and less toxicity. She envisions that PDX models will be a vital tool for the development of novel combination strategies to treat metastatic disease—strategies that can target not just the tumor but the tumor microenvironment as well.

A BCRF investigator since 2012, Dr. Charles Swanton was invited to give a career-spanning plenary lecture to a captivated audience on the evolution of breast cancer, immune evasion, and metastasis. In his lecture, he presented a culmination of his findings highlighting the importance of chromosomal instability in cancer progression. 

In addition to the honors presented at the SABCS, BCRF investigators Drs. Olufunmilayo Olopade and Daniel Hayes were awarded the Susan G. Komen Brinker Awards at an awards event coinciding with the conference in San Antonio. 

BCRF celebrates these investigators for their meaningful contributions that have accelerated the progress of research in their respective fields. Important to recognize, the work of these researchers has provided the foundational building blocks for advances that lead to better outcomes for patients. BCRF is proud to congratulate these investigators on their honors. 

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