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Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD, FAACR, FACP
Dana and Albert “Cubby” Broccoli Professor of Oncology
Deputy Director, The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center
Co-Director of the Gastrointestinal Cancers Program
Johns Hopkins University
University of Pittsuburg
Goal: To advance the use of immunotherapy for patients with metastatic breast cancer.
Impact: Immunotherapies targeting PD-1/PD-L1 checkpoint signaling have revolutionized the care of some cancers, and improved survival for some patients with breast cancer. Early trials showed that targeting PD-1/PD-L1 could result in durable clinical responses in small numbers of advanced breast cancer patients. Drs. Jaffee and Emens are seeking to improve response to immunotherapy by determining whether levels of PD-L1 vary between the primary and metastatic breast cancer.
What’s next: The team will characterize the expression of several immune biomarkers in breast cancer metastases to the liver and brain.
Immunotherapy is a promising treatment for breast cancer, but as with other anti-cancer therapies, tumors can evade these drugs and block their effects. Drs. Jaffee and Emens are determining if the immune environment of breast tumors from different sites of metastases vary. From their studies, we will gain deeper insights that will help to optimize the use of immunotherapy for treating metastatic breast cancer patients.
Full Research Summary
Research goal: Developing methods to optimize the use of immunotherapy for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer patients.
Impact: Although newer immune therapies that target PD-1/PD-L1 have improved breast cancer outcomes for some patients with advanced breast cancer, most do not benefit from these agents. Understanding which patients benefit—why some do, and others don’t—is key to their broader clinical benefit. While PD-L1 is a clinically relevant biomarker of immune activation across at least two subtypes of advanced breast cancer, studies showed that the tumors lose their immune reactivity as breast cancer progresses. Dr. Emens and Jaffee are examining the expression of PD-L1 and other immune markers in breast cancers that have spread to the liver or brain to determine whether the profile of immune markers is different at different sites of metastasis.. The results of their studies will help guide treatment with immune checkpoint therapy.
Current investigation: Drs. Jaffee and Emens will characterize several immune biomarkers, including PD-L1, utilizing tissues obtained from rapid autopsies, as well as liver and brain metastases and normal tissue to gain a deeper understanding of how the expression of immune biomarkers vary depending on disease site. Analysis of these samples will provide valuable information on how immune biomarkers vary with disease progression and how their expression correlates with breast cancer metastases at different sites.
Dr. Jaffee is an internationally recognized expert in cancer immunology and pancreatic cancer. She is Deputy Director of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, Co-Director of the Skip Viragh Pancreatic Cancer Center and Associate Director of the Bloomberg Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy. Her research focus is on developing novel immunotherapies for the treatment and prevention of pancreatic cancer. Dr. Jaffee is a Past President of AACR. She has served on a number of committees at the National Cancer Institute including co-chair of the Blue Ribbon Panel that provided scientific advice to Vice President Biden’s Moonshot Initiative. She currently serves as chair of the National Cancer Advisory Board and Chief Medical Advisor to the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research. She is the inaugural Director of the new Convergence Institute at Johns Hopkins. She was recently elected to the National Academy of Medicine and is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians.