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Thomas E. Rohan, MBBS, PhD, DHSc
Chairman, Department of Epidemiology and Population Health
Associate Director for Population Sciences, Albert Einstein Cancer Center
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Bronx, New York
Goal: To develop methods to identify breast cancer patients with a high risk of developing metastasis
Impact: Dr. Rohan is pursuing new biomarkers that can be used to predict the likelihood that a patient’s cancer will spread. His discoveries could help identify which cancer patients should undergo additional treatment to prevent metastasis.
What’s next: Having discovered several potential markers, Dr. Rohan and his team will now evaluate them in a large study of ethnically diverse breast cancer patients.
Metastatic breast cancer (MBC) occurs when cancer cells break away from the breast tumor and spread to other parts of the body and form new tumors. At this stage, the disease cannot be cured. Dr. Rohan is developing markers that could be used in combination to more accurately assess the likelihood that a patient’s breast cancer will spread so that those at high risk can be treated accordingly
Full Research Summary
Research area: Evaluating new markers that may predict the likelihood of breast cancer metastasis.
Impact: Breast cancer metastasis occurs when cancer cells escape the tumor in the breast and spread to distant sites via the blood or lymphatic system. While treatable, breast cancer metastasis is currently incurable. Being able to identify women at risk early in the process provides an important opportunity for intervention. Dr. Rohan and his team are conducting studies to develop more accurate ways to predict the risk of metastasis. Since prior research has shown that cancer cells do not metastasize without help from other non-cancer cells in the tumor microenvironment, Dr. Rohan’s team is seeking to understand how this tumor microenvironment of metastasis (TMEM) facilitates metastatic spread. His team is determining the clinical utility of TMEM as a novel prognostic marker for risk of breast cancer metastasis.
Current investigation: In the coming year, they will study the TMEM in a large, multiethnic cohort of breast cancer patients.
What he’s learned so far: Dr. Rohan and his colleagues have developed a system to identify and measure TMEM in breast tumor tissue. Using this system, they have shown that the higher the TMEM “score”, the greater the risk of metastasis. They are extending their work to a large multi-ethnic cohort of breast cancer patients. To date, they have initiated these studies and defined the cohort, reviewed the breast tissue samples from patients who have developed metastasis and a group that has not developed metastasis.
What’s next: Dr. Rohan and his colleagues will continue to assess TMEM as a prognostic marker of breast cancer metastasis in a multi-ethnic cohort of patients. They will utilize the previously defined breast tissue samples from the metastatic and the non-metastatic cohorts and evaluate the presence of the novel TMEM markers.
Dr. Thomas Rohan is Chairman of the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and Associate Director for Population Sciences in the Albert Einstein Cancer Center. He is a past member of the National Cancer Institute Board of Scientific Counselors. He is a cancer epidemiologist with extensive experience in the design, conduct, and analysis of studies of genetic/molecular, nutritional, and hormonal factors in the etiology and pathogenesis of breast cancer. He has published widely on these topics, and he has co-edited books on cancer precursors and on cervical cancer. Dr. Rohan also has extensive experience in conducting translational studies that involve multiple investigators and require careful planning and coordination.