E. Aubrey Thompson, PhD
Professor of Cancer Biology
Co-director, Breast Cancer Translational Genomics Initiative
Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center
Understanding how breast tumor cells and immune cells interact and how this affects response to treatment.
The immune environment within a tumor affects how the tumor responds to chemotherapy and/or targeted treatments. Moreover, the interactions between cancer cells and immune cells also serve as targets for immunotherapies, such as checkpoint inhibitors. Dr. Thompson’s BCRF research is focused on understanding the relationship between response to therapy and the numbers, types, locations, and activities of immune cells in patients with aggressive breast cancers. These studies will provide fundamental new insight in tumor cell-immune cell interaction in high-risk breast cancer subtypes, as well as identify novel biomarkers and potential new therapeutic targets.
Dr. Thompson’s focus over the past year has been on the analysis of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) samples from two patient cohorts. He and his team found that the immune cells that are in direct contact with TNBC cells are likely to prove much more relevant to patient outcome than the immune cells in the tissue adjacent to the tumor, emphasizing the importance of continued study of the TNBC tumor microenvironment.
Dr. Thompson will use emerging spatial biology technology to analyze the relationship between the immune architecture of breast cancer and clinical outcome. Conventional analyses of tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) do not give any information about the complex interplay of multiple cell types or about the numbers, subtypes, or whether they are active inside the tumor. Dr. Thompson’s work could reveal whether these cells are more relevant to clinical outcomes than TILs found in the area surrounding the tumor.
Dr. Thomspon’s core expertise is in cancer genomics. He was a project leader on the FDA-funded MAQCIII project. His was one of three laboratories world-wide to be designated as a primary sequencing lab for this international collaborative study. A member of the breast cancer analytical working group of The Cancer Genome Atlas project, Dr. Thompson heads the breast cancer fusion transcript subgroup. For almost 40 years this work has focused on gene structure and function within the context of the malignant phenotype, with an emphasis on breast cancer. As co-director of the Mayo Clinic Breast Cancer Translational Genomics program, Dr. Thompson coordinates the efforts of a team of highly committed individuals with expertise in computation, biostatistics, bioinformatics, functional genomics, database management, and clinical management of breast cancer patients. This team’s work represents a broad range of collaborations, including basic mechanistic studies, clinical translational studies with a strong focus on analysis of clinical samples and practice-changing discoveries, and development of new tools for genomic analysis. Dr. Thompson’s work is highly translational in nature, and he is motivated by the concept that more effective clinical management of breast cancer requires a more detailed understanding of the biology that underlies the disease. A major objective is to define the genomic architecture of HER2-positive breast cancer, to use this genomic information to identify the biological processes that are associated with clinical outcome, and to use these biological processes to elucidate the biological and genomic basis of therapeutic response.
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