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Nikhil Wagle, MD

Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Deputy Director, Center for Cancer Precision Medicine
Associate Member, Broad Institute
Dana Farber Cancer Institute
Boston, Massachusettes

Current Research

  • Seeking to understand the biological underpinning of disparities in breast cancer outcomes in African American women.

  • Efforts are ongoing to characterize the genetic profile of tumors from African American women with metastatic breast cancer.

  • These studies will provide important information on the biology of metastasis in women who experience an increased risk of dying from breast cancer.

Disparities in breast cancer outcomes between Caucasian and African American women are well-documented. While socio-economic issues that reduce access to screening and care play a role in the disparate outcomes among African American women, contributing biologic factors are poorly documented. Dr. Wagle is conducting a study to analyze genomic information from tumors and saliva from African American women with metastatic breast cancer to gain insight into the unique biology of breast cancer in African American women that will inform prevention and treatment strategies.

Full Research Summary

Mortality rates from breast cancer are higher in black women than in white women. However, the influence of tumor biology on this racial disparity is unclear. The genomics of tumors from African American patients with breast cancer remains poorly understudied, with only a small fraction of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) being comprised of African American patients. 

The goal of Dr. Wagle’ s BCRF research is to characterize the tumors of African American patients with metastatic breast cancer in order to better understand the biological reasons for these disparities. Patients will be selected for study through The Metastatic Breast Cancer Project, a nationwide initiative that seeks to empower patients to accelerate research by sharing their samples and clinical information. 

Dr. Wagle's team will use next-generation sequencing to characterize all of the known genes from tumor and saliva samples from African American patients with metastatic breast cancer who are participants in The Metastatic Breast Cancer Project. 

Once completed, this work should provide new knowledge about the biological characteristics of breast cancer in African American patients, improve our understanding of the disparities in outcomes and inform the development of novel treatment strategies in this patient population. 

As part of this study, Dr. Wagle has created a shareable unique resource of tumor and patient information linked to clinical data, which should prove invaluable for future translational research questions. 

Dr. Wagle's project is funded through BCRF's Founder's Fund Initiative.

Biography

Nikhil Wagle is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, a medical oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and an associate member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. He is the Deputy Director of the Center for Cancer Precision Medicine at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.   He received his MD from Harvard Medical and completed his residency training in internal medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where he also served as chief medical resident, and completed his fellowship training in hematology/oncology in the Dana-Farber/Partners program.

Dr. Wagle leads a translational research program in the field of breast cancer genomics and precision (or “personalized”) cancer medicine. The major goals of his work are to better understand the biology of metastatic breast cancer and to develop new ways to overcome or prevent drug resistance in patients with advanced breast cancer. Ultimately, his research aims to identify characteristics of tumors that might improve clinical decision-making for patients with advanced cancer.

He also leads The Metastatic Breast Cancer Project (mbcproject.org), a nationwide direct-to-patient research initiative that engages patients with advanced breast cancer through social media and seeks to empower them to accelerate cancer research through sharing their samples and clinical information. The project’s outreach program, developed in collaboration with advocacy organizations and patients, serves to connect thousands of patients around the U.S. with metastatic breast cancer research, allowing them to participate regardless of where they live.

BCRF Investigator Since

2016

Donor Recognition

The Blizzard Entertainment Award