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Lajos Pusztai, MD, DPhil

Yale School of Medicine
New Haven, Connecticut

Titles and Affiliations

Professor of Medicine
Chief, Breast Medical Oncology
Co-Director, Yale Cancer Center Genetics and Genomics Program

Research area

Identifying combination treatments that will improve the effectiveness of immunotherapy in patients with aggressive breast cancers.

Impact

The immune system plays an important role in the progression of primary breast cancer to metastatic breast cancer. Dr. Pusztai is conducting studies to assess the immune cell composition of primary and metastatic breast cancer to examine the changes that chemotherapy causes in the tumor genome and tumor-immune environment. Identifying and understanding the mechanisms of immunosuppression and immune evasion will provide the foundation for immunotherapy combination therapies that could provide patients with more effective therapeutic options.

Progress Thus Far

Dr. Pusztai and his team have identified a subset of patients with estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancers who benefited from immune checkpoint therapy before surgery. These patients include those who have the highest risk scores measured by the routinely used prognostic MammaPrint™ assay. This observation led to a new, large clinical trial for patents who have very high MammaPrint™ scores that launched in 2022. In the past year, the team identified potential markers that could identify cancers that would benefit from the addition of immunotherapy to preoperative chemotherapy to improve outcomes in early-stage triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). In another project, Dr. Pusztai’s team discovered a synergistic effect when blocking a key protein in tumor cell survival in combination with several chemotherapies.

What’s next

In the coming year Dr. Pusztai and his team will test the predictive values of the markers in the clinical trial that has now completed accrual and tested the value of immunotherapy after surgery for one year. Dr. Pusztai is also continuing laboratory studies developing and testing novel therapeutic strategies in breast cancer models.

Biography

Lajos Pusztai, MD, DPhil is Professor of Medicine at Yale University and Chief of the Breast Medical Oncology Section at the Yale Cancer Center. He is also Co-Director of the Cancer Center Genomics and Genetics Program. Dr. Pusztai received his medical degree from the Semmelweis University of Medicine in Budapest, and his DPhil. degree from the University of Oxford in England.

His research group has made important contributions to establish that estrogen receptor-positive and-negative breast cancers have fundamentally different molecular, clinical and epidemiological risk characteristics. He has been a pioneer in evaluating gene expression profiling as a diagnostic technology to predict chemotherapy and endocrine therapy sensitivity and have shown that different biological processes are involved in determining the prognosis and treatment response in different breast cancer subtypes. His group has also developed new bioinformatics tools to integrate information from across different data platforms in order to define the molecular pathways that are significantly disturbed in individual cancers and could provide the bases for future individualized treatment strategies. He made important contributions to clarify the clinical value of neoadjuvant chemotherapy in different breast cancer subtypes.

Dr. Pusztai is also principal investigator of several clinical trials investigating new drugs and potential response markers. He has published over 200 manuscripts in high impact medical journals and is the Clinical Editor of the British Journal of Cancer, Member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Member of the Breast Cancer Steering Committee of the NCI and Co-Chair of the Trans-ALTTO Committee that oversees the translational research projects of tissues collected during two larger randomized clinical trials (ALTTO and NeoALTTO). He is also Chair of the Data Safety Monitoring Committee of the OPTIMA trial.

BCRF Investigator Since

2002

Areas of Focus

Treatment Tumor Biology