Professor of Pharmacology and Medicine
Geisel School of Medicine
Hanover, New Hampshire
Seeking safe and effective drug combinations for breast cancer prevention, especially in high-risk women.
Laboratory studies are ongoing to test investigational drugs as potential candidates for effective drug combinations to prevent BRCA-driven breast cancer.
These efforts could lead to non-surgical prevention alternatives for women faced with a dangerously high risk of breast cancer.
Women with a mutated breast cancer gene (BRCA) are at exceptionally high risk for developing breast cancer. Currently, the only proven preventive strategy for these women is surgical removal of the breasts (bilateral prophylactic mastectomy). Non-invasive, non-surgical alternatives are urgently needed.
One such approach is chemoprevention, which is the use of drugs to prevent cancer formation. Drs. Sporn and Liby are testing multiple novel therapeutic strategies to suppress tumor promoting immune cells and other growth processes to block tumor growth. These include new formulations of existing drugs such as PARP inhibitors and rexinoids, as wells as new investigational drugs for preventing breast cancer. They continue to evaluate other inhibitors that target the harmful effects of immune cells in breast cancer.
Their long-term goal is to develop a safe and effective combination of chemopreventive drugs that would eliminate the need for prophylactic mastectomy. Such a chemopreventive regimen would be a great benefit to women with a BRCA mutation, who must presently suffer either the anxiety of "watchful waiting" or radical surgery.
Michael B. Sporn received his MD degree at the University of Rochester, and then started a 35-year career at the National Institutes of Health, where he became the Chief of the Laboratory of Chemoprevention in the National Cancer Institute in 1978. In the 1980s his laboratory in Bethesda played a key role in the original discovery of the multifunctional cytokine known transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta). In 1995 he moved to Dartmouth, where he has held an endowed chair as Professor of Pharmacology and Medicine.
He has been a strong advocate for prevention of cancer for many years, and much of his own research has dealt with the development of new drugs to be used as chemopreventive agents. These drugs have included synthetic retinoids and rexinoids (analogs of vitamin A), synthetic deltanoids (analogs of vitamin D), as well as selective estrogen response modulators (SERMs). Most recently he has been focusing on the use of new synthetic triterpenoids as agents for preventing breast and lung cancer and for suppressing inflammation and oxidative stress.