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Robert West, MD, PhD
Professor of Pathology
Director of the Laboratory of Immunohistochemistry
Goal: To investigate early steps in the development of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC).
Impact: TNBC is particularly aggressive disease. Understanding early events in the development of TNBC may provide insights into how to prevent it. Dr. West and his multidisciplinary team will work to unravel the changes that occur in DNA in precancerous cells, as well as tissue changes that lead to progression of benign tissue to malignant cancer. This work lead to a better understanding of the causes of aggressive forms of breast cancer, which will allow for the development of new preventative strategies.
What’s next: Dr. West and his multidisciplinary team will conduct molecular analyses of TNBC tumors and benign tissue to identify markers associated with development of TNBC potential prevention strategies for this aggressive disease.
Little is known about how the most aggressive forms of breast cancer, such as TNBC, relate to pre-invasive states. Unraveling of such relationships will allow us to begin to understand what causes TNBC to develop in the first place, so that effective strategies such as biomarker-directed screening or therapeutic targeting can stop TNBC from developing.
Full Research Summary
Research area: Identifying early events in the development of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) that will inform new prevention strategies.
Impact: Triple-negative breast cancer is an aggressive form of breast cancer with limited treatment options. Because of its aggressive nature, it has been difficult to study during the early—precancerous—stages of the disease. Dr. West’s team will utilize technologies they have developed to identify changes to DNA in precancerous cells, as well as changes in the neighboring tissue that may promote development of invasive cancer. Understanding events that happen during the transition from benign tissue to malignant cancer may identify strategies for both screening and prevention.
Current investigation: Dr. West and colleagues have developed approaches for studying small samples of tissue and will apply this to studying archived benign breast disease, ductal carcinoma in situ, and TNBC—all from the same patient. They will use cutting-edge technology to look back at different snapshots in time to understand how TNBC develops at the molecular level. Such findings are critical in creating successful prevention strategies for this aggressive disease.
Dr. West received his MD and PhD Washington University in St. Louis and completed clinical training at Stanford University Medical Center. He is now a Professor of Pathology at Stanford University Medical Center. Dr. West’s research focuses on translational studies of breast cancer combining genomic approaches with anatomic pathology. His lab has developed spatially-oriented, in situ methods to study archival specimens.
His research interest is in the progression of breast neoplasia to invasive carcinoma. The goal is to understand the molecular steps of progression to breast cancer and their etiology and to use this knowledge to better predict the outcome of ductal carcinoma in situ and to generate novel prevention strategies.