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Kathy D. Miller, MD
Ballve Lantero Scholar in Oncology
Professor, Department of Medicine
Co-Director, Simon Cancer Center Breast Cancer Program
Indiana University School of Medicine
Goal: To identify new methods of prevention for women at high risk of breast cancer.
Impact: Studying active cancers may not lead to effective prevention strategies if there are crucial factors that are only important early in the development of cancer. Dr. Miller is studying the roles that estrogen and progesterone play in the development of hormone negative breast cancers that may not be detectable once the disease is active.
What’s next: She and her team will conduct laboratory studies to determine if progesterone is crucial to the early development of cancers that are ultimately not hormone sensitive.
Dr. Miller’s current investigation is inspired by the observation that progesterone is crucial to the development of ovarian cancer in laboratory models, even though the cancers themselves were not sensitive to progesterone. Now, Drs. Miller and colleagues are conducting a similar study to see if the same is true for hormone-negative breast cancers. If so, this finding could lead to novel treatment and prevention strategies for high-risk women.
Full Research Summary
Research area: Improving outcomes for patients with triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) by identifying potential new drug targets and combination therapies.
Impact: Every fire needs a spark, but once the fire is burning, the spark is no longer needed. If we want to prevent the fire, we need to identify and understand the spark that caused it. If a tumor is seen as a fire, we can’t know how to prevent it if we only study the tumor. That is the concept behind Dr. Miller’s current BCRF study. Dr. Miller's team is studying the role of hormones in the early development of cancers that are ultimately not hormone sensitive, such as triple negative breast cancer. If successful, this work could lead to novel prevention strategies for high risk women.
Current investigation: In an analogy of the spark that lit the fire, Dr. Miller and colleagues are focusing on how the hormone progesterone acts to ignite cancers that ultimately do not require progesterone to grow – specifically, triple negative breast cancers. Based on observations in ovarian cancer, which is known to often be driven by similar molecular events, her team has developed sophisticated laboratory models to study the origins of TNBC and how progesterone and estrogen act to promote or inhibit establishment of these tumors. These exploratory studies could reveal potential prevention and targeted treatment approaches for TNBC.
Kathy D. Miller received her MD in 1991 from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD. Dr. Miller completed internal medicine training at Hopkins, then returned to her native Midwest for fellowship training at Indiana University, serving as Chief Fellow in 1997. She returned to Indiana University in 1999, attaining the rank of Professor and Ballvé-Lantero Scholar in 2014.
Dr. Miller’s career has combined both laboratory and clinical research in breast cancer. She became chair of the ECOG-ACRIN Breast Core Committee in January 2014. In this role she works with academic scientists and community oncologists to develop trials that combine clinical and biologic endpoints yet remain feasible in non-academic settings. Dr. Miller honed her ability to coordinate multi-center trials as principal investigator for three previous ECOG trials. In addition, she serves as principal investigator of the National Clinical Trials Network at Indiana University.