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Judy E. Garber, MD, MPH
Chief, Division of Cancer Genetics and Prevention
Susan F. Smith Chair
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Professor of Medicine
Harvard Medical School
BCRF Co-Scientific Director
- Seeking to identify blood markers that can predict long-term outcome in newly diagnosed patients.
- Patient blood is analyzed to look for gene mutation patterns that may increase the risk of developing blood cancer.
- This study will shed light on a rare phenomenon relating to cancer therapy that may be important in preventing additional cancers after breast cancer therapy.
Some cancer treatments can increase the risk of a subsequent cancer because of damage to healthy cells. One observed effect of chemotherapy in ovarian cancers is the presence of gene mutations that increase the risk of blood cancers. Dr. Garber is conducting a unique clinical trial to determine whether this phenomenon occurs after breast cancer treatment and how it may affect patient outcomes.
Full Research Summary
Low levels of acquired (not inherited) mutations have been found in many genes in the blood of healthy people. The prevalence of this phenomenon, called clonal hematopoiesis of indeterminate potential (CHIP), increases with advancing age and may increase the risk of blood cancers.
Recent data suggest that chemotherapy for ovarian cancer can increase these mutations, resulting in an increased risk of treatment-related blood malignancy.
In an ongoing trial, Dr. Garber and her team are collecting blood from newly diagnosed breast cancer patients before treatment and at two timepoints after treatment to determine whether CHIP levels increase after chemotherapy and if so, whether the cells containing the mutations go away after treatment.
As a comparison, they will conduct a similar analysis in a group of breast cancer patients who did not experience a recurrence. The goal of this unique trial is to determine whether breast cancer outcomes are affected by the appearance of these sporadic mutations.
This unique clinical trial gives patients the opportunity to participate in an important trial that will not only answer an essential clinical question but will also contribute to cutting edge research.
Judy E. Garber, MD, MPH is the Director of the Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Attending physician at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Her interests focus on breast cancer genetics, risk reduction and the development of therapeutics for the treatment and prevention of breast and related cancers in individuals carrying predisposing mutations. Her research includes the study of basal-like breast cancer, common in women with BRCA1 mutations. Her first neo-adjuvant trial of cisplatin in patients based on the role of BRCA1 in DNA repair demonstrated a significant complete response rate that has led to a series of trials, including a randomized phase II international, multicenter trial. Her research also includes the evaluation of novel agents targeting DNA repair defects in the treatment and prevention of triple negative or basal-like breast cancer, particularly platinums, PARP inhibitors and RANK ligand inhibitors.
Dr. Garber was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2013. She is a past president of the American Association for Cancer Research and a member of the National Cancer Advisory Board. She also served on the Board of Scientific Counselors of the National Cancer Institute. She has been a member of the BCRF Scientific Advisory Board since 2008.