Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Clinical Fellow, Division of Hematology/Oncology, Department of Medicine
Conquer Cancer, The ASCO Foundation
Exploiting breast cancer mutations for precision medicine.
Designing therapies that only affect cancer cells, and not healthy cells, is the main goal of drug discovery in oncology. This can be a challenging task, as oftentimes cancer cell growth is driven by the same processes that normal cells need to function. When those processes are targeted by therapies, healthy cells can be affected too, leading to harmful side effects in patients. For Dr. Dorand’s Conquer Cancer Award supported by BCRF, he is testing a novel therapeutic strategy to deliver highly specific therapy to cancer cells, while sparing healthy cells.
Dr. Dorand hopes to exploit a known mutation in a gene called SF3B1, which can occur in breast cancer cells. When SF3B1 is mutated, the cell’s protein synthesis is defective, resulting in abnormal proteins that are not found in normal cells. Dr. Dorand used sophisticated genetic technology to generate and characterize the SF3B1-mutated cells that express a protein on the cell surface called CD-19. In their laboratory studies, mutant SF3B1 cells produce a unique version of CD-19 which can be targeted by an existing FDA-approved drug.
Dr. Dorand and his team will continue to optimize their experimental approach. If their strategy works, it could pave the way for a potential gene therapy in breast cancer and may be used in other cancer types with SF3B1 mutations as well.
R. Dixon Dorand, Jr., MD, PhD completed his graduate studies through the Medical Scientist Training Program at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH. His research with Dr. Alex Huang, MD, PhD at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital focused on understanding the mechanisms regulating immune therapy in adolescent and young adult cancers. Specifically, he investigated the signaling pathways that alter gene expression involved in regulating responses to immune checkpoint therapy as well as the role of nanoparticles for drug delivery.
After graduation, he enrolled in the Harrison Society and Physician Scientist Training Program at Vanderbilt University Medical Center where he completed his Internal Medicine residency training and is currently completing his Medical Oncology fellowship at the Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center (VICC). Currently, Dr. Dorand works in the laboratory of Dr. Ben H. Park, MD, PhD where he uses a basic science approach to interrogate how mutations that regulate genetic machinery can be manipulated for therapeutic benefit.
Dr. Dorand was inspired to pursue a career in Oncology by his mother, Barbara Dorand, who passed away in 2016 from metastatic triple-negative breast cancer. Her memory, combined with the personal connections he makes with his patients, fuels his drive both in the clinic and in the lab. He appreciates the ongoing support from his friends and family, in particular his wife Emma. The Dorands recently welcomed their first son, Everett, into their family in Winter 2021. After completing his Medical Oncology Fellowship and Laboratory training, Dr. Dorand hopes to continue working as a physician scientist translating basic science insights into patient centered outcomes.
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