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Jenny C. Chang, MD
Director, Methodist Cancer Center
Professor, Weill Cornell Medical College
The Methodist Hospital Research Institute
Goal: To develop new treatments for triple negative breast cancer (TNBC).
Impact: Dr. Chang has established state-of-the-art laboratory models that allow her to test and expand the use of immunotherapies to treat breast cancer.
What’s next: She and her team will test two experimental therapeutic approaches designed to treat TNBC—one that targets the tumor microenvironment (the cellular environment that surrounds a tumor), the other a combination therapy for metaplastic breast cancer (MBC), the most aggressive subtype of TNBC.
TNBC tends to grow and spread faster than other types of breast cancer, and its lack of hormone receptors make it difficult to treat, since hormone therapy treatments aren’t helpful. New immunotherapy drugs have shown some effectiveness in patients with TNBC, but the response rate remains low. Dr. Chang is studying new ways to enhance response to these drugs so more patients can benefit from them.
Full Research Summary
Research area: Designing approaches to treat triple negative breast cancer (TNBC).
Impact: While new immunotherapy drugs have shown some effectiveness in patients with TNBC, the response rate is low. Dr. Chang and her team are testing their hypothesis that by modifying the tumor microenvironment (the environment surrounding a tumor), it is possible to dramatically improve the response to immune-based novel therapies. Their work may reveal new targeted therapeutic strategies for patients with TNBC, who have poor outcomes due to high rates of recurrence, metastatic spread, and lack of approved targeted therapies.
Current research: She and her colleagues are developing combination approaches that enhances anti-tumor immunity so more TNBC patients could benefit from immunotherapy. They are also investigating treatments for metaplastic TNBC, which is very rare and extremely resistant to existing therapies.
What she’s accomplished so far: With ongoing support from BCRF, the team has established state-of-the-art laboratory models that bear a human immune system and harbor patient-derived tumors (PDXs). These models are allowing them to test and expand the use of immunotherapies to treat breast cancer.
What’s next: Dr. Chang will continue ongoing studies designed to improve immunotherapies in TNBC. She will first test the combination of anti-PD1 immunotherapy with the immune-enhancing cytokine IL-12. Those therapies will then be combined with a third drug targeting a molecule called NOS, which Dr. Change has previously identified as a driver in promoting tumor growth and metastasis.
Dr. Chang obtained medical degree from Cambridge University, England and completed fellowship in medical oncology at the Royal Marsden Hospital/Institute for Cancer Research. She was awarded research doctorate from the University of London. Breast cancer has been the focus of her research. She plans to improve the outcome of breast cancer patients by translating scientific discoveries directly into clinical practice and therapeutics. To this end, her most recent work has centered on identifying the mechanisms by which breast cancer stem cells survive chemotherapy, radiation, and hormonal therapy, leading to recurrences, relapses, and metastasis. Her recent work has focused on the intrinsic therapy resistance of cancer stem cells, resulting in several publications and international presentations. In addition, she holds several federal grants evaluating novel biologic agents and patents on new technological advances, especially in the area of high throughput molecular profiling.