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Myles Brown, MD
Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Director, Center for Functional Cancer Epigenetics
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Goal: To identify new treatment approaches that could benefit patients with aggressive breast cancers.
Impact: Breast cancers that do not rely on estrogen or the HER2 protein for growth, called triple-negative breast cancers (TNBC) are often aggressive and difficult to treat. Dr. Brown’s work suggests that some TNBC rely on a different growth factor called FGFR. His team is exploring ways to block FGFR as part of effective therapy for these patients.
What’s next: In the coming year, Dr. Brown’s team hopes to uncover new therapeutic combinations that include FGFR inhibitors for the treatment of FGFR-driven TNBC.
Most breast cancers depend on estrogens (female hormones) for growth, and endocrine therapies that block estrogen action are among the most effective and least toxic breast cancer treatments. They do not work, however, on breast cancer that do not rely on estrogen, such as triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). TNBC lacks a clear targeted therapy, but Dr. Brown’s group has identified a subgroup of TNBC that are driven by the fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR)—a potent cancer promotor. His current work is focused on identifying combination approaches that include anti-FGFR drugs as potential treatments for this group of patients.
Full Research Summary
Research area: Development of novel therapies for drug-resistant and aggressive breast cancers
Impact: While there are effective targeted therapies for breast cancer that are driven by estrogen, called estrogen receptor (ER)-positive and those that require the HER2 protein for growth, very few targeted therapies exist for the 10-15 percent of breast cancers that require neither steroid hormones nor HER2. These breast cancers, called triple-negative breast cancer are often aggressive with a high likelihood of spreading to other parts of the body—a process called metastasis. Dr. Brown’s group is using a CRISPR-screening technology to identify new drivers of TNBC that might be targeted in combination with standard therapies to improve outcomes for patients with this disease.
Current investigation: In his current study, he is focused on fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR), a potent signaling protein that is overactive in some cancers including some TNBC. His team is conducting studies to understand how FGFR acts to drive the growth of TNBC and identify strategies to therapeutically target it.
Dr. Myles Brown is Director of the Center for Functional Cancer Epigenetics at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He obtained his BS in Biology from Yale and his MD from Johns Hopkins. Following training in internal medicine at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a fellowship in medical oncology at the Dana-Farber and postdoctoral research at MIT, he joined the staff of the Dana-Farber and the faculty of Harvard Medical School. Dr. Brown's research is focused on understanding the factors underlying the hormone dependence of breast and prostate cancers. He is recognized for three seminal discoveries including the role of p160 co-activators in steroid receptor action; the dynamic nature of co-regulator function; and the predominance of steroid receptors as enhancer- rather than promoter-binding factors.
BCRF Investigator Since
The Pink Promises Award in Memory of Patricia L. Hansen