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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 understand the biological underpinnings of breast cancer metastasis.
Genetic analyses of metastatic and primary tumors are ongoing to identify genetic alterations that occur during tumor growth and spread.
This international effort will provide important clues to the development of targeted prevention and treatment for metastatic breast cancer.
In the last decade, the characterization of breast cancer at the molecular level has allowed a better understanding of the disease biology and allowed a personalization of its management and treatment. While primary breast cancer is very well understood at the molecular level, the molecular underpinnings of metastasis are only beginning to be explored. Dr. Piccart and her international collaborators are studying gene changes that occur between the time a tumor forms in the breast to when it becomes a metastatic tumor in a distant organ to identify potential new targets for prevention or treatment.
Full Research Summary
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 impacted by the uniqueness of every tumor and the genetic diversity of cells within the tumor.
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.
In AURORA, targeted next-generation sequencing is used to identify aberrations in cancer genes in patients’ primary and metastatic tumors. Among other abnormalities, this technology can identify large Copy Number Alterations (CNAs), in which whole genes or chromosomal regions are deleted or amplified.
CNAs are important for understanding the disease and implementing treatments. Thus, this year, Dr. Piccart and team will expand the analysis of CNAs in the primary and metastatic tumors of the first 400 AURORA EU patients.
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.