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Prudence Francis, MBBS, B Med Sc, FRACP, MD

Associate Professor
Head of Medical Oncology, Breast Service
University of Melbourne
Melbourne, Australia

Current Research

  • Seeking to improve risk assessment in high-risk women by identifying protein and gene biomarkers.
     
  • Clinical trial specimens including blood, tumor tissue, mammograms and clinical data are analyzed to identify biomarkers to improve risk prediction.
     
  • The creation of a large biobank of clinical trial specimens ensures an invaluable resource to study breast cancer outcomes and identify risk prediction biomarkers

Large randomized clinical trials provide an opportunity to study patient samples for clues for predicting response to therapy or late recurrence. Drs. Cuzick and Francis have created a large biobank of tissue, blood and clinical data collected as part of clinical trials. They use these samples to look for biomarkers that can be used to understand why some patients respond to therapy and others do not or to identify patients with a high risk their breast cancer will come back. 

Full Research Summary

Well-designed randomized clinical trials may provide information about prevention strategies and effective treatments for women at risk of, or diagnosed with, breast cancer. A major limitation of clinical trials, however, is that results apply to the trial group as a whole, but not necessarily to each individual woman, because individual responses are influenced by the patient's and the tumor's unique genetic profile. 

The goal of the BCRF research led by Drs. Cuzick and Francis is to precisely identify risks for individual women based on protein and gene biomarkers that can predict outcomes for the prevention and treatment of breast cancer. To do this, they created a High-Risk Breast Bio-Bank (HRBB) that includes blood, tumor tissue, and mammograms with clinical outcome data and long-term follow-up of individual women in prevention and treatment trials. 

Over last year, the researchers added several hundred tumor biopsies, DNA and RNA samples each and several thousand mammograms further expanding the biospecimen resource. Collaborative projects are already underway and new projects are being developed, including collaborations with other BCRF investigators. 

In the coming year, Drs. Cuzick and Francis will continue to add to the HRBB with samples from three new trials, EXPERT, CHARIOT, and DIAmOND, as well as a new cohort study called PRIMROSE, thus further expanding this excellent resource for future translational research by collaborating with investigators throughout the world. 

Patient samples collected through these and other trials will be used to conduct analyses of clinical outcome data and biomarkers to improve prediction of risks for the trial population and expand the excellent HRBB resource for future translational research.

Biography

Prue Francis is Clinical Head of Breast Medical Oncology at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, Australia. She received her medical degree from the University of Melbourne and completed Medical Oncology training at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, where she spent 4 years. Since returning to Australia she focused her research on breast cancer randomized clinical trials (i.e. BIG 2-98, SOFT) with prospective tissue collection to facilitate translational research. She chairs the Steering Committee for the SOFT and TEXT trials which have led to changes in adjuvant endocrine therapy recommendations for young women with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer. 

Dr Francis is Chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee of Breast Cancer Trials Australia & New Zealand (BCT-ANZ) which has been conducting clinical trials since 1978. The multidisciplinary group has enrolled more than 15,000 women in national and international clinical trials across the disease spectrum from breast cancer prevention, DCIS, early stage disease, and neoadjuvant therapy, through to advanced breast cancer trials. The group trials variously involve escalation or de-escalation strategies, with an emphasis on biobanking, and quality of life assessment. 

Dr Francis is a member of the St. Gallen International Expert Consensus Panel on the Primary Therapy of Early Breast Cancer, and the Advanced Breast Cancer (ABC) International Consensus Panel. She is a member of the Scientific Committee of the International Breast Cancer Study Group (IBCSG) and a member of the Breast International Group (BIG). In 2015 she was awarded the Medical Oncology Group of Australia Cancer Achievement Award.

BCRF Investigator Since

2018

Donor Recognition

The Delta Air Lines Award

Area(s) of Focus