Titles and Affiliations

Senior Vice President and Director of the Clinical Research Division
President, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
Professor and Head, Department of Medicine, Division of Medical Oncology,
Raisbeck Chair of Collaborative Research, University of Washington
Member, BCRF Scientific Advisory Board

Research area

Characterizing immunosuppressive cells in residual triple-negative breast cancer to identify targets to prevent treatment resistance.

Impact

Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is an aggressive subtype of the disease that disproportionately affects young Black and Hispanic women. While TNBC tends to be sensitive to chemotherapy, more than half of the women treated with neoadjuvant chemotherapy have moderate or extensive residual disease and are at a very high risk of recurrence. Recently, it has been established that the immune cells in the tumor immune microenvironment (TIME) play a role in therapy resistance. In fact, for TNBCs, the presence of an increased level of tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) in the tumor microenvironment is associated with an improved prognosis. However, further comprehensive characterization of other specific immune cell subsets that may be involved have not been done. Dr. Davidson’s team is defining the immunosuppressive components of the TIME in residual TNBC disease and hopes to determine ways to prime the TIME so that immunotherapeutic strategies will be more effective. 

What's next

Dr. Davidson's team will focus on the myeloid cell subpopulation (including macrophages and neutrophils) in the TIME—these cells have been associated with poor prognosis and therapy resistance in multiple cancers. Her group has a unique resource of both primary tumor and residual cancer from TNBC breast cancer patients which will allow them to study chemotherapy-resistant TNBC. They will approach this question by: 

  • Investigating myeloid cell interactions with the microenvironment 
  • Comparing matched samples (pre- and post-treatment) to identify intrinsic versus acquired mechanisms of resistance
  • Correlating immunologic cell subsets with resistance and clinical outcomes. 

Through these studies, Dr. Davidson hopes to gain a deeper understanding of the TIME to identify strategies to shift immunologically quiet or “cold”  TIME in residual TNBC to a "hot” or immunologically active one by eliminating immunosuppressive cells. This has to the potential to inform effective combination immunotherapeutic strategies for TNBC treatment.

Biography

Dr. Davidson is a world-renowned breast cancer researcher who serves as Senior Vice President and Director of the Clinical Research Division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, President and Executive Director of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, and Head of the Division of Medical Oncology at the University of Washington.

Dr. Davidson has published key findings on the role of hormones, particularly estrogen, on gene expression and cell growth in breast cancer. She has guided several important national clinical trials of new therapies for breast cancer, including chemo-endocrine therapy for premenopausal breast cancer. Her research has been supported by a portfolio of funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Defense, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and Susan G. Komen for the Cure. She has authored over 350 articles in the top journals of her field.

An elected member of the Association of American Physicians, National Academy of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Davidson is an active member of the scientific advisory boards as well as external advisory boards of many foundations and cancer centers. She has also served as an elected member of the Board of Directors of the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) - the two largest organizations for cancer researchers and oncology professionals in the world. She was President of ASCO from 2007 to 2008 and President of AACR from 2016 to 2017.

Dr. Davidson earned her MD degree from Harvard Medical School and completed her internal medicine internship at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and internal medicine residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Subsequently, Dr. Davidson completed a medical oncology fellowship at the NIH’s National Cancer Institute. She was a faculty member in the Department of Oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine from 1986 to 2009, serving as Director of the Breast Cancer Program from 1994 to 2009 and as the Breast Cancer Research Chair of Oncology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine from 1995 – 2009. From 2009-2016 she served as Hillman Professor of Medicine and Associate Vice Chancellor for Cancer Research at the University of Pittsburgh and Director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.