Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Head of the Laboratory for Translational Breast Cancer Research
Co-coordinator, Cancer Program of the Doctoral School of Biomedical Sciences
Understanding the risk of recurrence to guide treatment decisions for patients with luminal breast cancer.
Luminal breast cancer (BC) represents approximately two-thirds of all breast cancers and is defined by the expression of estrogen (ER) and/or progesterone receptor (PR), with or without HER2 overexpression. Some patients with luminal breast cancer experience ‘late’ relapses with recurrences occurring up to 15 years after standard treatment. Despite the growing understanding of luminal BC biology, many unknowns remain particularly regarding the mechanisms of treatment resistance and disease recurrence. Assays such as MammaPrintTM have been shown to be reliable predictors of risk of recurrence or future metastasis, particularly when combined with clinicopathological data. Although these are powerful tools to guide treatment choice, there is still a significant proportion of patients who will experience disease recurrence in spite of being classified as low risk. Dr. Desmedt and her colleagues are identifying features of tumor cells and/or their microenvironment which are not captured by MammaPrintTM but associated with disease recurrence in luminal BC patients.
Dr. Desmedt and her colleagues will examine tumors from patients with a low genomic risk, as defined by MammaPrintTM, and determine the differences between those that recur and those that do not. To accomplish this, they will leverage data obtained from the large, multicenter MINDACT (NCT00433589) trial that clinically validated MammaPrintTM as a prognostic RNA-based tool. They will use cutting edge technologies, such as single nuclei RNA sequencing and spatial transcriptomics, to better characterize the RNA transcripts (transcriptome) of the cancer cells as well as their microenvironment. These studies will enhance our understanding of breast cancer recurrence beyond current prognostic methodologies. Dr. Desmedt hopes to generate important insights for refining risk assessment and treatment decisions for patients with luminal BC.
Christine Desmedt, PhD is an Assistant Professor at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven, Leuven), where she has led the Laboratory for Translational Breast Cancer Research since 2018. She received her bio-engineering degree in Cells and Genes Biotechnology from KU Leuven in 2000. She earned a master’s degree in bio-medical sciences at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (2004) and a PhD degree (2008) with Drs. Christos Sotiriou and Martine Piccart as advisors.
Besides her teaching duties, Dr. Desmedt is committed to overseeing an excellent multi-disciplinary research team that seeks to further personalize breast cancer treatment for and with patients. The main research areas of her laboratory research are the molecular characterization of breast cancer (including the unraveling of metastatic progression), gaining a better understanding of rarer cancer subtypes such as lobular and mucinous breast tumors, identification of mechanisms of treatment efficacy, and exploring the impact of patient adiposity on breast cancer biology.
Dr. Desmedt serves as co-leader of the Breast Cancer group of the Leuven Cancer Institute (LKI) with Prof. Dr. Hans Wildiers and co-developer/co-leader of the breast cancer research autopsy program at UZ/KU Leuven with Prof. Dr. Giuseppe Floris. Other leadership duties include co-founder/co-coordinator of the European Lobular Breast Cancer Consortium (www.elbcc.org) with Prof. P. Derksen (University of Utrecht, The Netherlands) and Prof. Dr. A. Salomon (Institut Curie, Paris, France), vice-president of the COST Action CA 19138 LOBSTERPOT which is entirely devoted to lobular breast cancer research, and co-coordinator of the Cancer Program of the Doctoral School of Biomedical Sciences at the KU Leuven.
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