Thomas E. Rohan, MBBS, PhD, DHSc
Bronx, New York
Chairman, Department of Epidemiology and Population Health
Associate Director for Population Sciences,
Albert Einstein Cancer Center
Developing a new method for identifying breast cancer patients with a high risk of developing metastasis.
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 therapies are available, 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 through a new biomarker.
The team previously found that when breast cancer cells are leaving the primary tumor and are about to enter the bloodstream, they form clusters with other cells. These clusters, which Dr. Rohan has termed “tumor microenvironment of metastasis” (TMEM), include the migrating tumor cell, a macrophage (a type of immune cell), and an endothelial cell (a component of blood vessels) and have been associated with an increased risk of distant metastasis in patients with estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. However, this finding was seen in a predominantly white population of patients, which means it may not be generalizable for all, and the team is expanding this analysis in a large, multiethnic cohort of breast cancer patients at Montefiore Medical Center. They are collecting tissue samples from 200 patients who subsequently developed distant metastasis and 200 who did not.
The team expects to finish collecting the tumor tissue needed for this study in the fall of 2022 and will subsequently focus on processing the patients’ electronic medical record data and completing all TMEM assays. Eventually, the team hopes to generate a new prognostic test for use in all 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.
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