With more than $5 million in new grants from Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Washington University scientists at the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine are developing innovative treatments in the fight against breast cancer.
The largest portion — $4 million — will be used to better identify which women with estrogen receptor-positive (ER-positive) breast cancer, the most common form of the disease, are at highest risk for recurrence and to determine more effective treatments for those individuals.
“There are so many new drugs out there for breast cancer patients that we need a way to establish which ones are most likely to be the home run,” says Matthew J. Ellis, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and chief of the breast oncology section. “Our goal is to screen drugs to find the one that will produce the best outcome for the patient with the least toxicity.”
Ellis is a co-recipient of the grant along with Elaine R. Mardis, PhD, co-director of The Genome Institute at the School of Medicine, and Pascal Meier, PhD, of The Institute of Cancer Research in London.
Using DNA sequencing to compare a patient’s normal and cancerous cells, the researchers are learning why traditional anti-hormone drugs often are only partially effective in reducing tumor growth. The study involves developing a test to predict which patients are most likely to experience recurrence after five years and determining which combination of drugs now in development will kill all ER-positive cancer cells and prevent recurrence.