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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: Dr. Rohan and his team will evaluate several recently discovered potential markers of metastastic risk 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 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 stream. Research has shown that cancer cells do not accomplish this task without help from other non-cancer cells in the microenvironment. Dr. Rohan’s team is studying a marker of metastasis called TMEM – a collection of cancer and non-cancer cells that facilitate entry into the circulation. The presence and concentration of TMEM has been shown to be predictive of metastasis in experimental models.
While treatable, breast cancer metastasis is currently incurable. Being able to identify women at risk early provides an important opportunity for intervention.
Current investigation: 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. This year they will evaluate the test in a large, multiethnic cohort of breast cancer patients.
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.