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Bruce G. Haffty, MD, FACR, FASTRO, FASCO
Professor and Chairman, Department of Radiation Oncology
Associate Vice Chancellor Cancer Programs
Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
New Brunswick, New Jersey
Goal: To improve outcomes in breast cancer by combining targeted therapies with radiation therapy.
Impact: While radiation is a key component in the prevention of local recurrence of breast cancer after surgery, resistance to this therapy hinders outcomes in some women. Dr. Haffty’s exploration of novel molecular targets that can be used in combination with radiation therapy could help improve response to radiation and reduce its side effects.
What’s next: He and his team will investigate certain pathways involved in the immune system’s response to radiation that could inform ways to enhance patient response. In addition, they will look at how small changes in a person’s genes could help identify who may be at risk for increased toxicity and side effects from radiation.
Radiation therapy is a powerful tool for preventing the local recurrence of breast cancer after surgery. However, not all patients benefit from radiation because some tumors are resistant. Dr. Haffty is studying therapies that could be combined with radiation to improve outcomes in patients vulnerable to resistance. In addition, his team is seeking ways to reduce treatment times and toxicity in women undergoing radiation for breast cancer.
Full Research Summary
Research area: Pursuing novel combination approaches to improve the effectiveness of radiation for breast cancer treatment.
Impact: Although radiation therapy is a powerful tool to prevent the local recurrence of breast cancer after surgery, some tumors are resistant and so not all patients benefit. Dr. Haffty is studying therapies that could be combined with radiation to improve outcomes for triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) patients who are particularly vulnerable to radiation resistance. The result of these studies will provide important information for controlling this disease and improve outcomes and quality of life for these patients.
Current research: He and his team are exploring how tumors respond to radiation and how the tumor environment and immune response of the patient may alter this response.
What he’s learned so far: Dr. Haffty has identified a molecular target that works synerigistically with radiation therapy to increase cell killing in TNBC cells. His study has shown that combining a novel drug—ONC-201, which selectively acts on this target—with radiation, dramatically improves the effectiveness of radiation therapy. He and his colleaues have also determined that this improved efficacy is mediated by boosting the immune response.
What’s next: Dr. Haffty and his team will continue to explore the mechanisms of this combined therapy, which are not well understood. They hope to discover novel ways to enhance patient response to radiation. Dr. Haffty and his team are also examining patients treated with radiation therapy to identify genetic patterns that may corrrelate with adverse outcomes to radiation therapy as well as identify patients at risk for increased toxicity and side effects from radiation. Dr. Haffty will also launch a novel clinical trial to evaluate pre-operative radiation prior to lumpectomy.
Bruce G. Haffty, MD is Professor and Chairman, Department of Radiation Oncology, Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and New Jersey Medical School and the Cancer Institute of New Jersey and Associate Vice Chancellor for Cancer Programs at Rutgers Biomedical Health Sciences. His medical school training, internship, residency and chief residency was at Yale. Dr. Haffty was a Professor of Yale’s Department of Therapeutic Radiology, served as residency program director from 1992-2004, and Vice Chairman and Clinical Director from 2002-2005. He moved to the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Cancer Institute of New Jersey in 2005.
Dr. Haffty’s clinical area of expertise is breast cancer, and he has focused on outcomes and prognostic factors women undergoing radiation therapy, evaluating novel molecular markers and potential targets, for which he has had many research grants and conducted numerous clinical and translational research programs. He has published over 400 peer-reviewed articles and 30 book chapters. He is consistently listed as one of the country’s leading physicians by Best Doctors in America and Top Doctors in New York and New Jersey. In addition to a busy clinical practice, Dr. Haffty has served on numerous national committees related to research and education in breast cancer and radiation oncology. He is currently Deputy Editor of the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Dr. Haffty is a Past President of the American Board of Radiology and the American Radium Society, past Chairman of the Residency Review Committee in Radiation Oncology, and past President and Chairman of the Board of the American Society for Radiation Oncology. Currently he is Chairman of the Board of RSNA (Radiological Society of North America).