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Lori J. Pierce, MD, FASTRO
Vice Provost for Academic and Faculty Affairs
Professor of Radiation Oncology
University of Michigan Medical School
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Goal: To identify ways to enhance the effectiveness of radiation in women with aggressive forms of breast cancer
Impact: Dr. Pierce is conducting studies to determine whether the biology of a tumor could be used to predict breast cancer recurrence following radiation therapy. Her work may improve outcomes by identifying patients at high risk of recurrence who need more aggressive therapy, and it could also lead to new treatments for this group of patients.
What’s next: She and her team will pursue the mechanism by which the androgen receptor—which is expressed in many breast cancers—may promote resistance to radiation therapy.
Radiation therapy after the surgery reduces the risk of local recurrence in the breast. While effective, some women do experience local recurrence. The androgen receptor may play a role in resistance to radiation therapy. Dr. Pierce is investigating the mechanism by which AR promotes resistance to radiation therapy and identifying patients likely to respond to AR blockade plus radiation.
Full Research Summary
Research area: Understanding the mechanisms of radiation resistance in women with aggressive forms of breast cancer and how drug targeting can overcome this resistance.
Impact: Despite treatment that includes radiation therapy (RT), many women with aggressive forms of breast cancer will experience a recurrence in the breast. One factor identified by Dr. Pierce’s group is the androgen receptor (AR). AR is a known driver of prostate cancer, but recent studies show it may also play a role in the progression and radiation resistance of breast cancer. Dr. Pierce’s studies may provide an additional safe and effective treatment option for women with aggressive forms of breast cancer, especially those whose tumors express AR.
Current investigation: Dr. Pierce’s team is working to identify novel drug targets that can increase the effectiveness of radiation therapy for women with aggressive forms of breast cancer.
What she’s learned so far: Recent studies have shown that the androgen receptor (AR) may play a role radiation resistance in breast cancer. Results from Dr. Pierce’s studies suggests that AR-blockade may be an effective radio-sensitization strategy for tumors that express AR. Furthermore, her group has found that anti-AR targeting with the drug enzalutamide (Xtandi®) may be an effective radio-sensitization strategy.
What’s next: Her team will investigate the mechanism by which AR promotes resistance to radiation therapy and identify the patients with AR-positive tumors likely to respond to AR blockade plus radiation.
Dr. Pierce completed residency in Radiation Oncology at Pennsylvania and was a senior investigator at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). She joined the Department of Radiation Oncology at Michigan in 1992, where she is currently Professor of Radiation Oncology and Vice Provost for Academic and Faculty Affairs.
She has published more than 100 papers and book chapters on aspects of radiotherapy (RT) in the treatment of breast cancer, and her work has been funded by the NCI, Department of Defense Funds for Breast Cancer Research, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Komen for the Cure, BCBS of Michigan and private industry.
Her research focuses on the use of RT in the treatment of breast cancer, with emphasis upon contemporary RT treatment planning techniques, the use of RT in the presence of a breast cancer susceptibility gene, and use of radiosensitizing agents.