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Sandra M. Swain, MD, FACP, FASCO

Professor of Medicine
Associate Dean for Research Development
Georgetown University Medical Center
Washington, DC

Current Research

Goal: To improve patient outcomes with the implementation of gene-based treatment management to reduce treatment-induced side effects and improve quality of life.

Impact: As more patients are living beyond breast cancer treatments, many will face long term side effects of their cancer care. Pharmacogenetics (PGx) refers to the use of genetic information to guide therapy decisions. While it is commonly used to guide the use of targeted therapy, it is not a commonly used to address survivorship issues, such as depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. Dr. Swain is initiating a pilot study to determine the feasibility and barriers of implementing PGx to improve long-term quality of life after breast cancer treatment.

What’s next: The study will enroll 100 patients with breast cancer who are not currenting receiving chemotherapy. A pharmacist trained in PGx will provide PGx-guided recommendations to the treating oncology provider. Dr. Swain’s group will observe how the clinician uses the PGx information and how it affects patient outcomes. Knowing that a lack of clinician education is often cited as a barrier to implementing PGx in the clinical setting, they will provide remote, module-based education and in-person PGx-education for clinicians.

The role of genetics in the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of cancer has grown rapidly over recent years. While it is commonly used to guide targeted therapy, it is not commonly used for survivorship issues. Using PGx in drug therapy decisions may help, but a lack of clinician education may be preventing the implementation of PGx. Dr. Swain is testing remote and in-person training in PGx for oncology clinicians to overcome this barrier.

Full Research Summary

Research area: Improving quality of life for patients after breast cancer with genetics-guided therapy.

Impact: As the survival rate breast cancer continues to climb, survivorship issues like depression, anxiety, and chronic pain are becoming increasingly important. Pharmacogenomics (PGx) refers to the use of genetic information to guide therapy decisions and may be helpful in decreasing treatment-induced long-term side effects. This study will assess the feasibility of implementing PGx for survivorship and provide training for oncology clinicians who are not familiar with using PGx in a clinical setting. The success of this pilot study could lead to standards of care that improve quality of life for patients treated for breast cancer.

Current investigation: Dr. Swain is embarking on a new avenue of research focused on implementing pharmacogenetics to guide drug therapy with the goal of reducing treatment-induce side effects. Such challenges—which include depression, anxiety, and chronic pain—can significantly impact quality of life and be difficult to treat. Using PGx in drug therapy decisions may be able to help.

She and her team plan to enroll 100 patients with breast cancer who are not currently receiving chemotherapy. They will study how oncology clinicians use the PGx information and how this can affect patient outcomes. A lack of clinician education is often cited as a barrier to implementing PGx in the clinical setting. Dr. Swain will provide remote, module-based education and in-person PGx-education for clinicians to address this need.

Biography

Dr. Sandra M. Swain is an internationally-recognized breast cancer medical oncologist, and clinical translational researcher. She has authored nearly 300 articles in numerous peer-reviewed medical journals, such as the New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet Oncology, and the Journal of Clinical Oncology, on topics including inflammatory breast cancer, adjuvant treatment of breast cancer, the treatments of metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer, cardiotoxicity, and health care disparities.

Throughout her career, Swain has held many advisory and leadership positions with professional oncology societies and organizations across the globe. From 2012 through 2013, she served as President of the American Society of Clinical Oncology where she championed efforts to promote the advancement of women in medicine and that she continues today through her service on the board of Conquer Cancer, the ASCO foundation, and the Women Who Conquer Cancer initiative she established. Currently, she is a professor at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, the Associate Dean for Research Development at Georgetown University Medical Center, and the Vice President of MedStar Genetic Medicine–roles in which she works to improve patients’ access to cutting-edge treatments and technologies by expanding medical research opportunities across the MedStar Health system. She is also co-chair of the Early Breast Cancer Trialists’ Collaborative Group in Oxford and a visiting professor of clinical oncology at the University of Oxford, UK.

BCRF Investigator Since

2013

Donor Recognition

The Ann Taylor and Loft Award (a subsidiary of ascena retail group inc.)

Area(s) of Focus