BCRF announced on October 1 a record $59.5 million in new awards to over 275 investigators from leading institutions in 15 countries. A culmination of that announcement was the Annual Symposium and Awards Luncheon attended by 200 investigators and 1000 donors and BCRF supporters at the New York Hilton.
Since 2004, BCRF’s signature event has started with a closed researcher retreat on the preceding day. This private event was the brainchild of BCRF’s Scientific Director, Dr. Larry Norton to provide a venue for BCRF investigators to discuss emerging and unpublished data from their laboratories and to forge new collaborations to move the science forward. During the retreat, BCRF had a chance to interview BCRF investigators, Priscilla Brastianos, Nancy Lin and Nikhil Wagle on their work in metastatic breast cancer and Drs. Peggy Porter and Lesley Fallowfield on prevention and survivorship research. The interviews were hosted live on Facebook and you can view them here: metastasis; prevention/survivorship.
For our donors, the October symposium, held the morning of the luncheon, provides an opportunity to hear about the latest news in breast cancer research and treatments and to present questions to BCRF investigators in attendance. This year’s symposium featured a panel discussion moderated by the Chair of BCRF Scientific Advisory Board, Dr. Judy Garber with guests, Dr. Nancy Davidson, this year’s Jill Rose awardee and longtime member of the BCRF Scientific Advisory Board; Dr. Jedd Wolchok, a leader in cancer immunotherapy and BCRF investigator since 2011; and Dr. Antonio Wolff, Chair of the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium, a multi-institution clinical trial consortium supported by BCRF since 2005.
Throughout the symposium, the panel emphasized the importance of laboratory research and the translation of those discoveries to change the clinical management of breast cancer and improve outcomes for breast cancer patients.
Dr. Davidson, whose work involves both laboratory and clinical trial research cited several prominent examples of basic science that led to significant changes to patient care and outcomes.
1. The discovery of HER2, a driver in about 25 percent of breast cancers led to the subsequent development of anti-HER 2 therapies that have dramatically improved outcomes in a disease that had previously been hard to treat. Treatment for HER2-positive breast cancer continues to evolve to include combinations with chemotherapy, as well as efforts to safely de-escalate treatment for some women;
2. Laboratory research that led to the understanding of the role of DNA repair processes in cancer helped to identify a new class of drugs called PARP inhibitors that selectively target cancer cells with faulty DNA repair, a common defect in triple negative as well as in BRCA1 driven breast cancers. This same discovery led to the new clinical trials with a commonly used cancer drug called cisplatin, that is showing promise in these same types of breast cancer;
3. Genomic studies of breast cancers that identified a frequently mutated protein involved in cell–cycle control (the ability of cells to divide), spurred the discovery of a class of drugs called CDK4/6 inhibitors that prevent cancer cells from dividing. Three different drugs in this class have been approved for treatment in advanced breast cancer in combination with anti-estrogen (endocrine) therapies, bringing new hope to women with metastatic breast cancer.
As Dr. Wolchok noted, “Without unscripted (discovery) basic science, none of the treatments we are administering to our patients would be possible.”
Breast cancer treatment has traditionally targeted the cancer cells themselves. Dr. Wolff emphasized that we know now that “host” factors, everything from an individual’s genetics to environmental factors and lifestyle play a role in cancer development, growth, response to treatment, and metastasis. Many of these influences were discussed during the symposium. You can read more about these discussions by clicking on the links below.