Center awarded $11.5 million for breast cancer research consortium

Porter, Cheever will lead the five-year Seattle-based SPORE in projects including development of targeted treatments for drug-resistant tumors
Drs. Peggy Porter and Mac Cheever
Co-principal investigators Drs. Peggy Porter and Mac Cheever, members of the Human Biology and Clinical Research divisions, respectively, will lead the breast cancer research consortium. Photo by Ignacio Lobos (left) and Center News file photo

The National Cancer Institute has awarded $11.5 million to the Hutchison Center to lead a five-year, Seattle-based breast cancer research consortium. The goal of the endeavor is to positively impact breast cancer prevention, detection, treatment and care of women who have or are at risk for the disease.

The Seattle Cancer Consortium Breast SPORE (Specialized Program in Research Excellence) will involve 25 investigators at the Center and the University of Washington as well as project consultants from a variety of institutions in the U.S. and abroad.

Co-principal investigators Drs. Peggy Porter and Mac Cheever, members of the Human Biology and Clinical Research divisions, respectively, will lead the consortium.

“The collaborations that were formed between basic, clinical and translational scientists as part of the Hutchinson Center/University of Washington Cancer Consortium were key to the success of the breast cancer SPORE funding,” Porter said.

Developing targeted breast cancer treatments is the unifying mission behind the consortium’s four scientific projects. Because targeted therapies interfere with specific molecules involved in tumor growth, they often have less severe side effects than standard chemotherapy and radiation, which treat the cancer but damage healthy tissue.

“Our mission is to provide unique breast cancer treatment options that are developed from the science at the Center and the UW,” said Cheever, an expert in cancer immunotherapy who is working to move cutting-edge science out of the lab and into the clinic, where it will be made available to cancer patients enrolled in clinical studies, a process known as translational research.

Project descriptions:

  • Project 1: Predicting mortality and response to therapy – Low levels of a cell cycle inhibitor called p27 are often a marker of poor outcome in breast cancer. This project will follow a small number of breast cancer patients who have survived at least five years to test the possibility that p27 expression in tumor cells predicts poor prognosis or poor response to anti-estrogen and/or anti-HER2 therapies. If this holds true, it will be possible to develop a test that will not only predict which women will fail treatment, but also will allow researchers new insight into which targeted therapies are needed to treat drug-resistant tumors. Project co-leaders: Porter, SPORE co-principal investigator, will lead this project along with Dr. James Roberts of the Basic Sciences Division.
  • Project 2: Targeted T-cell immunotherapy of breast cancer – This project will evaluate new immunotherapeutic approaches for breast cancer in a phase 1 clinical trial in which cells of the immune system will be isolated and programmed to target and kill breast cancer cells and then transferred back to the patient. This research will provide insights into the potential utility of adoptive T-cell therapy for breast cancer, as well as the broader application of this approach for the treatment of other solid tumors. Project co-leaders: Dr. Stanley Riddell, Clinical Research Division, and Dr. Lupe Salazar, University of Washington School of Medicine.
  • Project 3: Predicting poor prognosis and poor response to systemic therapy –This project aims to better understand the underlying biology of drug-resistant tumors and develop treatments that overcome drug resistance. By using imaging technologies to identify drug-resistant tumors, such patients can be directed toward therapy that is more likely to work in the long term. Project co-leaders: Dr. David Hockenberry, Clinical Research Division, and Dr. David Mankoff, UW School of Medicine.
  • Project 4: Identifying genetic biomarkers that could prevent over- or under-treatment in women with breast cancer – The goal of this project is to identify markers of DNA damage repair as a way to predict outcome in breast cancer and prevent over- or under-treatment of the disease.. By identifying such markers, researchers hope to improve treatment decision-making. Project leader: Dr. Amanda Paulovich, Clinical Research Division; project co-leader: Dr. Kathleen Malone, Public Health Sciences Division.

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