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Mohamed Abazeed, MD, PhD
The Cleveland Clinic
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.
Mohamed received his B.S. degree in Biochemistry in 2000 and his MD, PhD degree in 2008 from the University of Michigan. His early research focused on developing facile assays to resolve complex fundamental cellular processes. He is trained in genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology, genomics, and computational and radiation biology. He completed his clinical training at the Harvard Radiation Oncology Program in 2013 with an emphasis on research as a B. Leonard Holman Fellow. As a fellow, he joined the lab of Dr. Matthew Meyerson (Dana Farber Cancer Institute), an expert in the field of targeted therapy and personalized medicine. There, Mohamed facilitated multi-disciplinary collaborations that led to the development of high-throughput platforms and adaptations of computational methods to advance the field of radiation genomics. He is currently an Assistant Professor at the Cleveland Clinic. His group is engaged in an ambitious program to supplant traditional non-selective radiation treatment with therapies that are informed by the genetic composition of patients’ tumors.