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Three BCRF Investigators Honored at 2021 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium

By BCRF | January 5, 2022

Drs. Funmi Olopade, Judy Garber, and Fabrice André all recognized for pioneering research

One of the greatest accolades a scientist can receive is peer recognition—an acknowledgement that underscores the importance of their work.

We are proud to announce that three of our investigators received such honors at this year’s San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS)—the largest breast cancer conference in the world. These awardees have significantly impacted breast cancer genetics research and its translation to patient care.

BCRF congratulates this year’s award recipients and celebrates their outstanding contributions to propel research forward.

Olufunmilayo (Funmi) F. Olopade, MD, FAACR

Dr. Olopade received the William L. McGuire Lecture Award for her significant contributions to breast cancer research, particularly her pioneering work addressing worldwide disparities in care. Dr. Olopade’s research in breast cancer genomics was instrumental in making genetic testing accessible, particularly for Black women. She has dedicated her work to developing appropriate tools for risk assessment and implementing their use in under-resourced communities.

In her award lecture, Dr. Olopade discussed the importance of examining genes and their mutations to gain deeper insights into the factors that drive cancer development and to understand the disparities that exist across different patient populations. She eloquently discussed the journey from the initial discovery of BRCA1 and BRCA2—findings that heralded a new era in breast cancer research—to present day where genetic screening is utilized for risk assessment. She reflected on the “beauty of research,” which enables investigators to continuously refine tools and algorithms to develop better models and address the root causes of existing disparities. 

Judy E. Garber, MD, MPH

BCRF’s Scientific Director was awarded the Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Clinical Research. This award acknowledged Dr. Garber’s major impact on breast cancer care—particularly her decades of research into breast cancer genetics and how it can be used to inform screening and treatment decisions.

In her award lecture, Dr. Garber discussed the advancements in and expansion of genetic testing. Today, patients are not only receiving germline testing for inherited DNA mutations, but also tumor DNA testing that yields specific information about a tumor and how it evolved to become cancerous. Through cascade testing, extended family members are now being screened after a loved one finds out they have a specific mutation. And genetic testing is now being used to inform treatment decisions: For example, we now know that if someone has BRCA1/2 mutations, treatment with a PARP inhibitor may be effective.

As a leader in this area of research, Dr. Garber’s many contributions will guide the next generation of geneticists.

Fabrice André, MD, PhD

Dr. André received AACR’s prestigious Outstanding Investigator Award for Breast Cancer Research, which recognizes notable accomplishments made before the age of 50. This award, underwritten by BCRF, acknowledged Dr. André’s innovative research to harness the power of genomic analysis (a process to identify and characterize all genes—not just individual genes and mutations) to treat people with metastatic breast cancer (MBC).

In his award lecture, Dr. André discussed how breast cancer research is moving toward precision medicine, where the genomics of each patient can drive treatment decisions. He detailed two clinical trials he led, SAFIR01 and 02, to test the feasibility of using multi-gene sequencing to guide therapy choices for people with MBC. Those trials found that analysis of large portions of an individual’s breast cancer genome is not only possible, but also has the potential to identify molecular alterations that are targetable with specific treatments.

He also described how newer technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning had potential utility in modeling cancer biology and broadening the scope of precision medicine. Intriguingly, Dr. André also spoke about how 3D printing and other tools are currently being exploited to construct new drugs based on an individual patient’s biology. These are all exciting new developments that advance the needle toward truly personalized patient care.

More from BCRF’s coverage of SABCS 2021: