Priyanka Sharma, MD
Kansas City, Kansas
Professor of Medicine
Tyler Frank B Professor of Cancer Research
Co-Leader of the Drug Discovery, Delivery, and Experimental Therapeutics Program
Improving personalized treatments for triple-negative breast cancer.
Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) represents 10 to 20 percent of diagnosed breast cancers and is very aggressive and fast-growing. The “triple-negative” in TNBC refers to the cancer cells lacking three key markers found in more common breast cancers: receptors for estrogen (ER), progesterone (PR), or HER2. Unfortunately, this means that TNBC will not respond to drugs that target these markers, leaving TNBC patients with few treatment options. Dr. Sharma’s goal is to use completed and ongoing Southwest Oncology Group (SWOG) studies to assess biomarkers of response to chemotherapy and targeted agents and to study the relationship of race with treatment response in TNBC—this could lead to more personalized therapies for Black women with TNBC.
Previous studies have shown that breast cancers that lack capabilities for repairing double-strand DNA breaks or that have immune cell infiltration respond better to treatment. Dr. Sharma’s research builds on these findings by leveraging SWOG breast cancer clinical trials to define those aspects of an individual’s breast cancer that can inform treatment decisions. Utilizing a cohort of 425 patients from SWOG, her team described a novel dual TNBC prognostic classification scheme based on immune signature (DNA damage immune response, DDIR) and DNA damage repair status. In the last year, they found that TNBC tumors that were negative in both immune and DNA damage repair status demonstrated the poorest prognosis.
The team will continue to examine the poorest prognostic class to assess whether different biological vulnerabilities exist in Black versus white patients. They will also complete a comprehensive multi-omics tissue analysis, thus enabling further analysis of racial disparity in outcomes in context of the already available rich resource of biomarkers. Addressing and improving racial and ethnic representation in breast cancer clinic trials is an important aspect of facilitating precision medicine and is also an integral part of the overall long-term goals of her project.
Priyanka Sharma, MD is a Professor of Medicine and Assistant Director of Clinical Research at the University of Kansas Medical Center. She completed medical school at University of Baroda, India, and residency and fellowship at the University of Kansas School of Medicine in internal medicine and hematology, respectively. Dr. Sharma serves as the Vice-Chair of the SWOG Breast Committee (2018-present) and has been member of the SWOG Board of Governors since 2015, as well as a member of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) breast cancer steering committee. She is a past recipient of the Advanced Clinical Research Award, Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation (2015-2018) supported by BCRF.
In addition to national and institutional leadership roles, Dr. Sharma is actively involved in clinical and translational breast cancer research. Her long-term research goal is to delineate personalized treatment strategies for triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) and BRCA mutation-associated breast cancer. She serves as Translational Principal Investigator (PI) of an ongoing NCI-funded SWOG trial for patients with TNBC (S1416) and as PI of an active translational SWOG study (S9313c) which also focuses on TNBC. Outside of SWOG, Dr. Sharma has served as PI of several investigator-initiated trials assessing novel therapeutic agents for breast cancer.
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