Dr. Laura Esserman, director of UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Breast Care Center is spearheading the development of a clinical trials model designed to accelerate and improve the efficiency with which experimental breast cancer therapies are assessed. The strategy, which involves the use of molecular markers and MRI, utilizes “adaptive design,” in which drugs are assessed over the course of months – rather than decades – and the information used in real time to direct the course of a trial.
The series of studies are known as I-SPY (investigation of serial studies to predict therapeutic response with imaging and molecular analysis) and are being carried out in patients with locally advanced i.e., aggressive – breast cancer. The goals of I-SPY are to establish a clinical trials model that supports the identification of drugs targeting the molecular profiles of aggressive cancers, and to reduce the duration of the drug-assessment process from the current 15 to 20 years down to a few years.
Dr. Esserman’s team presents several findings at ASCO today. One provocative finding shows that large, locally advanced forms of breast cancer often emerge between regular mammogram exams. These “interval” cancers present an important opportunity for doctors and patients to take advantage of neoadjuvant therapies in advance of surgery, with the hope they would be responsive. The other finding is that using molecular markers, UCSF researchers identified a subset of patients who do well regardless of how they respond to neoadjuvant treatment. They also identified a subset with poor prognosis for whom response to neoadjuvant therapy is a good predictor of long term outcome.
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Susan Desmond-Hellmann, one of FORTUNE’s Most Powerful Women in Business, will become the first woman to serve as UCSF chancellor. The appointment, unanimously approved by the UC Board of Regents today, takes effect August 3, 2009.
Desmond-Hellmann, 51, brings a deep clinical, research, and executive leadership background and commitment to high-quality patient care to the position of UCSF chancellor. She is a board-certified physician in internal medicine and medical oncology who has dedicated much of her career to cancer research. She was with South San Francisco-based Genentech for 14 years – as clinical scientist, chief medical officer, executive vice president and president – where she has overseen successful trials for therapeutic drugs, including Herceptin, Avastin and Rituxan, targeting a range of cancers and other diseases. Says Desmond-Hellman:
I began my career at UCSF, and my heart has never left it..My life’s work has been focused on making a difference for patients, and I cannot think of a better place than UCSF to carry that work forward. As the health needs of the world continue to change, UCSF will continue to play a pivotal role in developing solutions through its research, teaching and clinical care across all the health disciplines.
BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genes that increase the risk of hereditary ovarian cancer, as well as hereditary breast cancer. Testing for mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes can predict cancer risk, and can now possibly be used to guide treatment and entry into clinical trials. Dr. Mary S. Beattie, Director of UCSF’s Cancer Risk Program, discusses who should have genetic counseling and why.
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“From Bench to Bedside to Market — Envisioning How Translational Research Will Make a Difference for Women With Breast Cancer” — UCSF’s 2009 Breast Oncology Program Scientific Retreat — was held this week. The focus was on experimental therapeutics, molecular markers, clinical trials and early detection. Among the topics discussed was “How siRNA will Change Cancer Therapy.” Here are a few take-aways:
- Many mutant proteins are not druggable. Cancer can adapt to tolerate targeted therapies.
- Current process of developing cancer drugs is not working.
- UCSF is developing a new paradigm of drug development through its pioneering siRNA research.
- Ultimately these siRNA discoveries will help eliminate the pharma industry R&D “valley of death.”
To learn more, visit UCSF’s Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center site.