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Mohamed Abazeed, MD, PhD
Feinberg School of Medicine
Director, Center for Precision Radiotherapy
Department of Radiation Oncology
Robert H. Lurie Cancer Center
Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO
Goal: To advance new treatments for patients with triple negative breast cancer (TNBC).
Impact: TNBC is an aggressive form of breast cancer with a high likelihood of metastasis. The standard treatment for TNBC is radiation and chemotherapy. While effective, some TNBC will develop resistance to this treatment and progress. Dr. Abazeed is conducting studies to understand how resistance occurs in order to identify new therapeutic targets and biomarkers to predict response to these agents in TNBC and other cancers.
What’s next: He and his team will build on recent findings linking the male hormone, androgen, to resistance of anti-cancer therapies.
TNBC is an aggressive subtype of breast cancer and is difficult to treat. A major challenge in the treatment of TNBC is the lack of targeted therapy options. Dr. Abazeed and his team have discovered that androgen signaling may be closely linked to resistance of chemo- and radiation therapies. They are continuing this work to identify new therapeutic options for patients with TNBC and other aggressive breast cancers.
Full Research Summary
Research area: Evaluating new treatment options for patients with triple negative breast cancer (TNBC).
Impact: The use of large scaled genomic profiling of tumors has led to the identification of therapeutic targets driving breast cancer development and fueled the field of precision medicine. In spite of their precision, however, targeted therapies often fail to eradicate the cancer. One reason cancer cells survive targeted therapies is their ability to activate alternative cancer programs when one is blocked by a targeted drug. Dr. Abazeed’s Conquer Cancer Foundation research, supported by BCRF is focused on understanding how cancer cells become resistant to two commonly used breast cancer therapies, radiation and chemotherapy, with the goal of identifying strategies to prevent resistance. These studies may be especially important in treating TNBC, an aggressive disease primarily treated with radiation and chemotherapy.
Current research: Dr. Abazeed is conducting analyses of clinical tumor samples from patients with triple negative breast cancer to identify genes that may be responsible for resistance to radiation. This work builds on earlier findings suggesting that specific genes, such as those involved in androgen signaling, may function to protect TNBC cells against standard therapies in the clinic.
What he’s learned so far: His work has shown that increased expression of the androgen (AR) receptor causes TNBC cells to become resistant to radiation. Furthermore, AR expression in breast cancer cells occurs with another receptor that interacts with stress response molecules.
What’s next: Dr. Abazeed will build on these observations to further explore the role of androgen signaling in drug resistance with the goal of identifying biomarkers of response and alternative treatment strategies.
Dr. Abazeed received his MD/PhD degrees from the University of Michigan with a research focus in yeast and human genetics. During his residency training at the Harvard Radiation Oncology Program he was the Leonard B. Holman Research Fellow at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He was mentored by Dr. Matthew Meyerson, a global leader in cancer genomics. He is currently an associate professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and the inaugural Director of the Center for Precision Radiotherapy in the Department of Radiation Oncology. As a practicing Radiation Oncologist, he uses his experiences in patient care to develop a clinically relevant research program to translate laboratory discoveries into potential improvements in clinical care. His scientific expertise is in bioinformatics, cancer genomics, computational biology, deep learning and predictive modeling. His team, comprising both dry and wet lab investigators, has contributed to our understanding of the variation in the sensitivity of tumors to DNA damaging therapies (chemo-/radio-therapy) and its underlying genetic. In breast cancer, his team was the first to identify the role of androgen receptor as a regulator of resistance to radiotherapy. Recently, his team has developed new computational and deep learning tools to predict clinical treatment failures after radiotherapy. These and other ongoing efforts are intended to provide a rational basis for ameliorating therapeutic resistance in cancer.]