Dionisia Quiroga, DO, PhD
Breast Medical Oncology Fellow
Conquer Cancer, The ASCO Foundation
The Ohio State University
Understanding the immune effects of breast cancer-associated lymphedema and lymphedema-correcting surgeries.
Treatment of early, localized, breast cancer typically involves surgical removal of the tumor as well as underarm lymph nodes adjacent to the breast tumor. In many patients, removal of these lymph nodes can lead to significant and painful swelling of the arm, called lymphedema. This can occur at any time following breast surgery and lead to decreased arm mobility, chronic discomfort, increased rates of infection, and higher rates of depression and anxiety. African American patients are over three times more likely to develop lymphedema, further contributing to cancer disparities. Lymphedema correcting surgeries (LCS) re-route lymph fluid to small veins and improve fluid movement out of the arm to the rest of the body. While these surgeries greatly reduce the amount of swelling and pain associated with lymphedema, the benefits these surgeries may have on inflammation and the immune response in the body as a whole are unknown. For her Conquer Cancer Young Investigator Award, Dr. Quiroga will study these broader immune effects to help find new ways to treat and manage lymphedema and give patients a better quality of life.
Prior research suggests that lymphedema can drive up systemic inflammatory markers, which can lead to impaired immune system function and possibly promote the development of cancer and other serious diseases. Dr. Quiroga’s project will study markers of inflammation in blood samples from patients with breast cancer-associated lymphedema before and after LCS. In addition to furthering our understanding of how lymphedema affects the immune system, this study may also identify a marker in the blood that can help monitor lymphedema severity and predict which patients would benefit most from LCS.
Dionisia Quiroga, DO, PhD graduated from Michigan State University’s Medical Scientist Training Program where she completed medical school and PhD; her research focused on the pre-clinical development of viral-based cancer vaccine platforms. Following this, she completed her combined internal medicine residency and medical oncology fellowship training through The Ohio State University’s Physician Scientist Training Program. She is currently a breast medical oncology fellow and NIH T32 postdoctoral researcher under the mentorship of Dr. William Carson, III. After finishing her training, she will begin her position as a tenure-track assistant professor and breast medical oncologist in the Division of Medical Oncology at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center (OSUCCC).
Dr. Quiroga’s research focuses on the immunology of breast cancer and breast cancer-associated conditions. Specifically, her Conquer Cancer Young Investigator Award supported by BCRF will focus on the systemic inflammatory changes that can occur in patients who develop painful swelling of the arm (lymphedema) after lymph node removal for breast cancer treatment. She is also collaborating with surgeons at OSUCCC to determine if lymphedema-treating surgeries, such as lymphovenous bypass, can reverse inflammation and yield a biomarker for clinical and surgical benefit. Her long-term goal is that by studying these inflammatory patterns she will discover new therapeutic and preventive drug targets for breast cancer-associated lymphedema. Dr. Quiroga is also passionate about increasing diversity of the medical workforce and volunteers to help early trainees pursue careers in oncology and academic research. She has assisted in the development of a health disparities curriculum for oncology trainees and is particularly interested in working to remove barriers that prevent equitable patient involvement in clinical research.
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