Translational Research Program

Biomarkers to Distinguish Aggressive Cancers from Non-aggressive or Non-progressing Cancers

Principal Investigator: Christopher Li, MD, PhD

Distinguishing aggressive cancers from non-aggressive or non-progressing cancers is an issue of both clinical and public health importance particularly for those cancers with an available screening test. With respect to breast cancer, mammographic screening has been shown in randomized trials to reduce breast cancer mortality, but given the limitations of its sensitivity and specificity some breast cancers are missed by screening. These so called interval detected breast cancers diagnosed between regular screenings are known to have a more aggressive clinical profile. In addition, of those cancers detected by mammography some are indolent while others are more likely to recur despite treatment. The pilot study proposed herein is highly responsive to the EDRN supplement titled “Biomarkers to Distinguish Aggressive Cancers from Non-aggressive or Non-progressing Cancers” in that it addresses both of the research objectives related to these issues outlined in the notice for this supplement:

Aim 1: To identify biomarkers in tumor tissue related to risk of interval detected vs. mammography screen detected breast cancer focusing on early stage invasive disease. We will compare gene expression profiles using the whole genome-cDNA-mediated Annealing, Selection, extension and Ligation (DASL) assay of 50 screen detected cancers to those of 50 interval detected cancers. Through this approach we will advance our understanding of the molecular characteristics of interval vs. screen detected breast cancers and discover novel biomarkers that distinguish between them.

Aim 2: To identify biomarkers in tumor tissue related to risk of cancer recurrence among patients with screen detected early stage invasive breast cancer. Using the DASL assay we will compare gene expression profiles from screen detected early stage breast cancer that either recurred within five years or never recurred within five years. These two groups of patients will be matched on multiple factors including tumor stage and treatments received. Our goal with this comparison is to identify novel biomarkers that discriminate between tumors that recur and are more aggressive compared to those that are less aggressive and do not recur.

This project will evaluate well characterized tumor tissue specimens using a robust high dimensional laboratory approach and generate preliminary data that will motivate a larger scale study of high translational relevance.