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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
Seeking to improve response to radiation therapy and prevent local recurrences in high-risk women.
Clinical studies are ongoing to test a gene signature to predict the likelihood and timing of local recurrence following breast cancer surgery and radiation therapy.
These studies may lead to new treatment options for women at high-risk for recurrence and improve ability the accuracy of predicting a high risk of breast cancer recurrence.
Radiation therapy after surgical removal of breast cancer reduces the risk of local recurrence. In spite of this, some women may still experience a new breast cancer and would therefore benefit from more aggressive therapy. Being able to identify these women before treatment would allow more personalized treatments to reduce their risk. Dr. Pierce is conducting studies to develop a strategy to identify women at high risk of recurrence and to improve response to radiation treatment.
Full Research Summary
Clinical trials have shown that the addition of radiation therapy following both breast-conserving surgery and mastectomy can significantly reduce the risk of local recurrence of early breast cancer. Despite the efficacy of this trimodal therapy, some women will develop locoregional recurrence (i.e., in the breast or lymph nodes) after standard treatment, and some women do not benefit from radiation. Currently, no test can accurately distinguish women who may need more aggressive treatment from those at sufficiently low risk or predict who is likely to recur following surgery and radiation.
Dr. Pierce's previous BCRF-supported research resulted in development of a radiation response signature that accurately identifies women likely to develop early local recurrences after radiation therapy. This signature, which incorporate biologic information about the tumor and drug sensitivity information, is leading to potential new treatment options for women at high risk for recurrence. It may also enhance the ability of clinicians to identify the women truly at high risk of breast cancer recurrence.
In studies this year, the team is seeking to further understand the mechanisms of radiation resistance as well as develop strategies to clinically overcome this resistance.
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.