SU2C Scientific Research Teams
An Integrated Approach to Targeting Breast Cancer Molecular Subtypes and Their Resistance Phenotype
Joe W. Gray, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair, Biomedical and Chemical Engineering Department, Oregon Health & Science University Knight Cancer Institute
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Dennis Slamon, M.D., Ph.D.
Chief, Hematology/Oncology, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine
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“What keeps me going is that this is an illness that affects many, many, many people, and my goal in life, along with all of my colleagues, is to turn it from a disease of great concern to a disease that can be readily controlled or even cured so that individuals can go on to live out the rest of their lives.” - Joe W. Gray, Ph.D
The Breast Cancer Dream Team’s fully integrated translational research model is propelling the group rapidly toward more effective, less toxic therapies for three major breast cancer subtypes. The goal-oriented, results-driven ethic of team members and leaders reflects the need to match the relentless drive that characterizes cancer itself.
Over time, cancer cells find ways to “outsmart” the medicinal agents designed to kill them. The Breast Cancer Dream Team is looking to uncover the driving mechanisms that lead to resistance in the three major breast cancer subtypes: estrogen receptor (ER)-positive; HER2- positive; and triple negative. That understanding can put scientists a step ahead of each of the diseases, allowing for innovative therapeutic agents that can match cancer’s next move.
It is now clear that breast cancer is not a single disease but rather a spectrum of conditions that vary in their biology and response to treatment. This knowledge has been the driving force behind the development of new breast cancer treatments, which have moved us beyond a “one size fits all” approach into an era of “personalized medicine” with treatments tailored to the biology of the tumor.
The team is looking closely at so-called cancer stem cells. These self-renewing cells often become resistant to cancer treatments, and serve to drive tumor growth and recurrence of cancer in patients. Learning how cancer stem cells operate in the three major breast cancer subtypes could lead to the development of new treatments for breast cancer as well as other major cancers.
A key component of the team’s efforts may provide an important tool to propel the field of breast cancer research. A great deal of work has been done on breast cancer, but the field is lacking key technologies and databases that provide an overview of current knowledge. The team is creating a “discovery platform” that will integrate existing information about breast cancer with cutting-edge high-throughput technologies. Researchers will be able to use the database to identify, validate or discover for themselves new drug combinations and targets that can be pursued in clinical trials. Team leaders expect that these efforts will lead to significantly improved therapies for breast cancer, especially the most difficult to treat forms, within three years.
Click here to see a full list of Dream Team members
Watch a short video in which Breast Cancer Team Leaders Gray and Slamon talk about the science behind their project: