Myles Brown, MD
Professor, Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Physician, Oncology, Brigham And Women's Hospital
Professor of Medicine, Medical Oncology
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
2013-2014 BCRF Project:
(The Pink Promises Award in Memory of Patricia L. Hansen)
The goal of this project is to determine the role played by male hormones, androgens, in breast cancer. Scientists now understand that rather than being a single disease, there are several different types of breast cancer that depend for their growth and spread on different factors. While it has been appreciated for many years that the female hormone estrogen is critical for the growth of the most common type of breast cancer that contain the receptor for estrogen, so-called ER+ breast cancer, it is only in recent years that it has been appreciated that male hormones, androgens, also play an important role in breast cancer growth. Specifically, Dr. Brown and others have found that depending on breast cancer type, androgens can either stimulate or inhibit breast cancer growth. In the coming year, he seeks to understand how this occurs.
This study is important to breast cancer patients as new classes of drugs that block the action of androgens have been recently developed for the treatment of prostate cancer. These drugs would be potentially effective in those breast cancers that depend on androgen for growth. In contrast, other new drugs that mimic the activity of androgens in the breast without unwanted masculinizing side effects could provide a new option for the treatment of the subset of breast cancers that are growth inhibited by androgens. For these new agents to be appropriately developed for breast cancer, a detailed understanding of the complexities of androgen signaling is required. Dr. Brown’s goal is to precisely elucidate the mechanisms underlying the subtype selective actions of androgens in breast cancer so that new therapies can be developed.