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Ben Ho Park, MD, PhD

Professor of Oncology, Breast and Ovarian Cancer Program
Associate Director, Hematology/Oncology Fellowship Program
The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
Baltimore, Maryland

Current Research

  • Seeking non-invasive alternatives to surgical biopsy for monitoring tumor progression and response to therapy.

  • Clinical studies are planned to determine the utility of liquid biopsy in patients with early stage breast cancer.

  • Liquid biopsy could provide a non-invasive alternative to monitor disease through the course of treatment and provide real-time assessment of tumor changes that can facilitate adjustment to therapies that aren't working.

There is a growing interest in obtaining metastatic biopsies to study the mutational profile of a patient's tumor. The hope is that mutations and other genetic alterations will be found that can guide treatment decisions. However, assaying a single metastatic site for mutations may not provide a complete profile of tumor mutations and important information could be missed.

Dr. Park’s group has championed and pioneered the use of circulating plasma tumor DNA (ptDNA) as a "liquid biopsy" to monitor disease progression in breast cancer patients.

In the past year, the group successfully demonstrated that mutations in a fresh metastatic tissue biopsy match those in ptDNA. They are continuing these studies to determine whether liquid biopsies can be used to track response to treatment in real time in patients with metastatic breast cancer.

This year, Dr. Park's team will initiate studies to compare the mutational matching between tissue and blood for early stage II/III breast cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy before surgery, called neoadjuvant therapy.

Currently, only tissue biopsy can be used to identify tumor mutations, but often times the biopsy has inadequate tissue for genetic analysis. By showing a high level of consensus between tissue and blood for early stage patients, a diagnostic tissue biopsy will no longer be needed to identify mutations for blood monitoring.

Having a validated liquid biopsy for early stage disease would greatly facilitate the ability to use blood-based assays for early stage disease and will pave the way for precision medicine.

Biography

Dr. Park is from Saginaw, MI and received his Bachelor’s degree from The University of Chicago in 1989. He then completed a dual MD-PhD training program at The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, graduating in 1995. After completing a residency in Internal Medicine and Hematology/Oncology Fellowship Training at The Hospital of The University of Pennsylvania, he finished a postdoctoral research fellowship in cancer genetics in the laboratory of Dr. Bert Vogelstein at Johns Hopkins University. In 2002, Dr. Park joined the faculty in the Department of Oncology at The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins within the Breast Cancer Research Program. His laboratory research focuses on finding mutated or altered genes that are responsible for breast cancer initiation and progression, as well as genes that are mutated leading to chemo- and hormonal drug resistance.

BCRF Investigator Since

2008

Donor Recognition

The ULTA Beauty Award