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Peggy L. Porter, MD

Program Head
Divisions of Human Biology and Public Health Sciences
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Seattle, Washington

Current Research

Goal: To understand the effect of environmental exposure to low-dose radiation on future breast cancer risk.

Impact: Dr. Porter is investigating the effect of exposure to relatively low doses of radiation over long periods of time on breast cancer risk, which may reveal the best paths for potential prevention and treatment for low-dose radiation-associated breast cancers.

What’s next: She and her team will continue to assess the genetic changes in breast tumor cells in women who lived in the path of radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear accident.

Exposure to radiation is a well-documented risk factor of breast cancer. However, most of the evidence comes from studies of radiation delivered at high-dose rates. Far less is known about the risk posed by relatively low doses of radiation that occur over time, which is most relevant to the types of environmental and occupational exposures encountered today. Dr. Porter is studying women who lived in the path of radiation fallout following the Chernobyl nuclear accident 30 years ago when they were young girls to better understand environmental exposures to radiation and future risk of breast cancer. Her work may also identify potential therapeutic targets for treatment of radiation-induced breast cancers.

Full Research Summary

Research goal: Determining the impact of environmental exposure to low-dose radiation on a woman’s future risk of breast cancer.

Impact: While exposure to ionizing radiation is well-documented as a risk factor of breast cancer, most of the evidence for this relationship comes from studies of high-dose radiation delivered at high-dose rates (i.e., of survivors of atomic bombings and individuals exposed medically for therapeutic and diagnostic reasons.) Dr. Porter is conducting a comprehensive assessment of protracted low-dose radiation and breast cancer risk, which is most relevant to the types of environmental and occupational exposures people are more likely to encounter today. Her work will provide much-needed information on the risks of long-term exposure that could inform prevention and treatment strategies.

Current investigation: Dr. Porter and her colleagues are studying women living in the path of radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl accident, which occurred 30 years ago. These women were exposed as young girls to a mix of radionuclides, resulting in relatively low-dose radiation delivered over many years.

What she’s accomplished so far: Dr. Porter’s group has established a cohort of 160 women with and without breast cancer categorized by level of radiation exposure from low to very high. Of these, they completed tumor and germline DNA analysis of 76 participants and have another 84 samples under preparation. Initial results were submitted for publication.

What’s next: With the support of BCRF, Dr. Porter will directly address what specific types of genomic changes are seen in breast tumors of women exposed to radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Her expanded global analysis of mutations in these tumors and assessment of the tumor immune response may reveal novel therapeutic targets for women who have developed a known radiation-associated breast cancer.

Biography

Dr. Peggy Porter, a pathologist and researcher, is a member of the Human Biology and Public Health Sciences Divisions at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Professor of Pathology at the University of Washington. As head of the multi-institutional Women’s Cancer Research Program centered at the Hutchinson Center, Dr. Porter leads a dynamic group of basic scientists, epidemiologists, surgeons, oncologists and pathologists dedicated to reducing the incidence and subsequent mortality of breast cancer. Her lab focuses on identifying and understanding the molecular events associated with initiation and progression of breast cancer, particularly the role of abnormal cell cycle control. Her lab continues to integrate new technologies and apply them in large-scale studies to identify tumor markers of progression in diverse populations and specific breast cancer subtypes that can be used for detection, prognosis and prediction of response to therapy. Current studies include the determination of breast cancer risk and molecular alterations associated with radiation exposure in Chernobyl and the relationship of ancestry and breast cancer risk in Hispanic women. She obtained her medical degree in 1987 from the University of New Mexico and completed her residency in Pathology at the University of Washington where she was a recipient of the American Cancer Society Clinical Oncology Fellowship.

Large Researcher Headshot - Porter Peggy

BCRF Investigator Since

2001

Donor Recognition

The Clinique Award

Area(s) of Focus