Harvard Medical School
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Seeking to identify novel therapies for triple negative breast cancer.
Clinical and laboratory studies are conducted to investigate new drug combinations in advanced triple negative breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
This collaborative effort is opening new doors to potential therapeutic combinations to improve outcomes for patients with these aggressive diseases.
Although triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is less common than estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer, it is a particularly aggressive form of the disease, for which there are no targeted therapies.
Dr. Wulf is working closely with BCRF colleagues Lewis Cantley and Ursula Matulonis in the development and testing of new drug combinations that may improve outcomes in TNBC. These collaborative endeavors include genomic analyses of biopsies and specimens from patients with TNBC or advanced ovarian cancer participating in a Phase I clinical trial (led by Dr. Matulonis) as well as testing novel combinations in laboratory models of TNBC, in collaboration with Dr. Cantley.
The clinical trial has completed accrual of patients, and correlative studies are ongoing. The investigators reported a number of clinical responses and are now in the process of determining why some patients responded and others did not. They will focus on trying to find novel markers to identify patients who may benefit from a less toxic alternative to the standard chemotherapy.
In their laboratory studies, Drs. Wulf and Cantley have found that the efficacy of PARP inhibitors, a class of drugs in clinical trials for TNBC, can be improved when combined with immune checkpoint inhibitors. Based on these encouraging results, several clinical trials that combine PARP inhibitors and the immune checkpoint inhibitors anti-PD1 or anti-PDL1 are ongoing. These efforts are also directed towards understanding which cells in the microenvironment influence the immune responsiveness of breast tumors.
Dr. Gerburg Wulf is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and an Attending Physician in the Breast Oncology Group at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and the Dana-Farber Harvard Cancer Center (DFHCC). She received her medical school and graduate training in Germany where she studied in Muenster and at the Max-Planck-Institute for Biochemistry in Munich. After a residency at the University in Heidelberg she came to the US in 1991 for a post-doctoral research fellowship in Hematology at Beth Israel Hospital. She received further post-graduate training at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center (Internal Medicine) and at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (clinical Hematology/Oncology), as well as a second post-doctoral fellowship in Cancer Cell Biology with Dr. Kun Ping Lu. Her current professional work is a combination of clinical practice and laboratory-based research. As a board-certified oncologist, Dr. Wulf serves breast cancer patients from the greater Boston area in the Multidisciplinary Breast Cancer Clinic at BIDMC. She is an active clinical scientist and an NCI, ECOG and DFHCC investigator. Her focus is laboratory-based research where she is interested in novel treatment concepts for endocrine-resistant breast cancer. She is collaborating closely with Dr. Lewis Cantley, Director of the Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medical School in New York, to develop and test in preclinical models novel combination treatments that include the use of a PI3Kinase inhibitors.