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Martine J. Piccart, MD, PhD
Professor of Oncology
Université Libre de Bruxelles
Director of the Medicine Department
TRANSBIG and Jules Bordet Institute
Member, BCRF Scientific Advisory Board
Seeking to identify novel treatment strategies by studying patients who have an exceptional response to therapy
Genetic analyses of tumors from exceptional responders is planned to gain insight into their remarkable response to therapy.
This international effort may provide important clues from exceptional responders that can guide new treatments to improve outcomes for more patients.
A patient's response to therapy depends on many interacting factors, including the patient’s physical characteristics, the genetic makeup, and the environment. Response to cancer drugs is exacerbated by the uniqueness of every tumor and the genetic diversity of cells within the tumor. These multiple factors make the identification of good predictive biomarkers challenging.
Studying the tumor genes of patients who exhibit unusually favorable response to a drug (“exceptional responders”) offers the prospect of identifying unique genetic variants that have a strong effect on the response and may hint at novel treatment strategies. Dr. Piccart and colleagues are undertaking a global search for exceptional responders in breast cancer and will perform subsequent molecular characterization of their tumors.
By leveraging the large, multi-continental network of collaborative groups and hospitals of the Breast International Group (BIG), they will be able to identify interesting cases that may otherwise not be studied.
In addition to the above work, Dr. Piccart is leading the effort on BCRF Founder’s Fund AURORA EU initiative. The objective of AURORA EU is to conduct precise molecular analyses of primary and metastatic breast cancer samples to better understand the evolution of metastasis and the mechanisms of drug resistance that allow tumors to grow and spread.
This year, the focus of the Founder's Fund study will be to characterize the genetic and molecular profiles of primary breast tumors and matched brain metastasis. Dr. Piccart's team will sequence and analyze 150 clinically annotated brain metastases as well as the original breast tumor. This sequencing will allow the researchers to identify changes that occurred in the primary tumor that led to the brain metastasis, some of which may represent novel therapeutic targets or biomarkers that could help identify cancer patients at risk of developing brain metastases.
Martine J. Piccart, MD, PhD, is Professor of Oncology at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Belgium, and Director of Medicine at the Institut Jules Bordet.
She is co-founder and chair of the Breast International Group (BIG), uniting 55 academic research groups from around the world, running over 30 trials, and developing numerous research programs. AURORA, a study to better understand metastatic breast cancer, is the most ambitious of these.
Dr. Piccart has been President of the European Cancer Organisation (ECCO) since January, 2014. She is past-president of the EORTC, immediate past-president of the European Society for Medical Oncology and served on the ASCO Board. Author or co-author of more than 470 peer-reviewed publications, she has received numerous prestigious awards, including the Jill Rose Award, the William L. McGuire Award, the Umberto Veronesi Award for the Future Fight against Cancer, and 2013 David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award.