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Shelley Hwang, MD, MPH

Professor of Surgery
Chief, Breast Surgical Oncology
Vice Chair of Research, Department of Surgery
Duke University
Durham, North Carolina

Current Research

Goal: To identify markers that can detect when pre-invasive cancer progresses to invasive disease.

Impact: Dr. Hwang is investigating ways to personalize treatment for women with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)—a premalignant form of breast cancer that may or may not progress to invasive breast cancer—by tailoring treatment recommendations based on tumor biology. This could spare women who have low-risk lesions from undergoing unnecessary treatment.

What’s next: She and her team will conduct studies that will help them to identify and test prognostic markers of invasive progression in DCIS.

The progression of DCIS—also called Stage 0 breast cancer—to invasive cancer is not well understood. As a result, most women will undergo standard treatment for early stage invasive breast cancer, including surgery and radiation, whether it’s likely to become invasive or not. Dr. Hwang is conducting a clinical study of patients undergoing surveillance for DCIS to determine which patients may safely forgo surgery.

Full Research Summary

Research area: Improving treatment of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) so that each patient receives the best treatment for her disease.

Impact: Widespread access to mammographic screening has resulted in more than a five-fold higher detection of DCIS but without a corresponding reduction in the incidence of node-positive or metastatic breast cancer (MBC). Dr. Hwang aims to identify biomarkers in blood and tissue that could predict low versus high risk of progression to invasive cancer. Her findings have the potential to spare many women with DCIS from undergoing unnecessary treatments such as surgery and radiation.

Current research: She and her team are collecting cell-free DNA, tissue, and imaging from women enrolled in a prospective randomized trial comparing active surveillance (AS) - a strategy to monitor early-stage disease -to usual care for DCIS. They are also studying the mutation patterns and evolutionary growth dynamics of DCIS to understand how it progresses.

What she’s accomplished so far: Dr. Hwang has completed sample collection on 226 patients who have enrolled in the first U.S. trial of close monitoring for DCIS.

What’s next: She and her colleagues will continue sample collection and will combine multiregional sampling with mathematical modeling to quantify the progression potential and natural history of DCIS.

Biography

Dr. Shelley Hwang, MD, MPH is a Professor of Surgical Oncology, Vice Chair of Research and Chief of Breast Surgery for the Duke Department of Surgery and the Duke University Comprehensive Cancer Center. Her research focus includes breast cancer prevention, identifying less invasive treatments for early stage breast cancers including ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), and understanding the genetic and stromal determinants of cancer progression. Dr. Hwang is an experienced clinical trialist with an interest in both the biology and treatment early stage breast cancer including DCIS. She is lead investigator (PI) of a national cooperative group study through the ALLIANCE evaluating the role of preoperative systemic hormonal therapy for DCIS. She is also surgical PI of the Duke NCI National Clinical Trials Network, which promotes and oversees recruitment to cooperative group trials. She serves as a member of the National Cancer Institute Breast Cancer Steering Committee and the NCCN Screening Guidelines Committee. Other interests of the Hwang group include the evolutionary role of tumor and environmental heterogeneity in driving DCIS progression and the impact of the breast density, microenvironmental factors, and the stromal immune infiltrate in determining breast cancer phenotype and response to chemotherapy. Her team incorportates computational models of cancer progression, and have developed progression models for invasive breast cancer.

Grid Researcher Headshot - Hwang

BCRF Investigator Since

2016

Donor Recognition

The Tanger Factory Outlets Award

Area(s) of Focus