Titles and Affiliations

Professor, Department of Surgery
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Director, National Cancer Institute Cooperative Group Clinical Trials
University of Pittsburgh Hillman Cancer Center
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
On behalf of the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP)

Research area

Understanding what drives treatment response and resistance in patients with HER2-positive breast cancer.


Therapies such as trastuzumab (Herceptin®) have revolutionized the treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer. Trastuzumab and other HER2-targeted therapies block the pro-tumorigenic actions of HER2 on cancer cells and stimulate an immune response directed against the cells. Nevertheless, only a subset of patients with HER2-positive breast cancer experience a robust response and there is a pressing need to understand why some do not. Dr. Wolmark’s BCRF research aims to discover biomarkers to predict treatment response and to  elucidate mechanisms of resistance to therapies.

Progress Thus Far

Over the past year, Dr. Wolmark and his team analyzed tumor samples from participants in NSABP clinical trial FB-10, which tests a combination therapy for metastatic, HER2-positive breast cancer. Their goal is to evaluate tumor gene expression and to detect tumor-specific mutations that can be used as biomarkers to guide treatment. Thus far, they have identified a treatment-targetable mutation and a mutation associated with treatment resistance. The team has also detected gene expression differences in tumors that have been treated versus treatment-naïve tumors, making it possible to evolve treatment as the patient’s tumor evolves. 

What’s next

Dr. Wolmark and his colleagues will use new, innovative techniques to evaluate diagnostic core biopsies of breast cancer with linked outcome data. They will evaluate these biopsies for a range of biomarkers that hold promise for predicting therapy response. Their long-term goal is to combine a series of informative biomarkers into a clinically useful test to help stratify patients into tailored treatment groups upon initial diagnosis.


Dr. Norman Wolmark, MD, is Chairman of  NSABP Foundation, a not-for-profit academic research organization with a nearly 60-year history of conducting ground-breaking research studies in breast and colorectal cancer.

He is also Professor and Chairman of Human Oncology at Drexel University School of Medicine. Dr. Wolmark received his medical degree from McGill University of Montreal, and he completed his residency at the University of Pittsburgh. He served a fellowship in Surgical Oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and he later became a cancer expert at the Surgery Branch of the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Wolmark belongs to numerous prestigious organizations including the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the American Association of Cancer Research, and the American Surgical Association.

Over his near 45-year tenure as a cancer researcher, Dr. Wolmark is extensively published, with more than 400 scientific journal articles and book chapters in print.  He is a widely sought-after speaker and lecturer in his field and serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Women’s Cancer, The Journal of Clinical Oncology, and numerous advisory boards, and as an advisor to oncology programs, societies, and institutes throughout the United States and abroad.

Devoted to the evolution of large randomized clinical trials for the treatment and prevention of breast and bowel cancers, he is also a reviewer for The Journal of Clinical Oncology and the New England Journal of Medicine, and he is an editorial board member of the Journal of Women's Cancer and Clinical Breast Cancer.

BCRF Investigator Since


Areas of Focus