Bruce G. Haffty, MD
Professor and Chairman, Department of Radiation Oncology
2012-2013 BCRF Project:
(made possible by generous support from Play for P.I.N.K.)
UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
The Cancer Institute of New Jersey
New Brunswick, New Jersey
Radiation therapy remains an important component of breast cancer treatment. Despite maximal doses of radiation, selected patients, particularly younger women with breast cancer, continue to suffer local or regional relapses. One of the major components of response to radiation is a process called apoptosis or programmed cell death. When over-expressed, a common protein, BCL-2, can interfere with this process resulting in failure of radiation to control the disease. Dr. Haffty has been leading studies combining novel BCL-2 inhibitor drugs with radiation and has found that the combination of radiation with the BCL-2 inhibitors results in better response rates than with radiation alone. More recently, however, this research team has discovered molecular pathways of resistance to the combination of BCL-2 inhibitors and radiation. Fortunately, these resistant pathways can also be targeted to optimize tumor response to radiation and BCL-2 inhibition. In the upcoming grant period, these investigators will explore ways to target these pathways of resistance to the combination of BCL-2 inhibition and radiation in both cell culture and laboratory models. These studies are paving the way for a clinical trial using BCL-2 inhibitors in combination with radiation and other novel available agents in patients with breast cancer.
Mid-year Progress: Dr. Haffty's laboratory is investigating novel molecular targets that can be used in combination with radiation therapy to enhance the effectiveness of radiation and improve outcomes in women undergoing radiation for breast cancer. Their strategy is to identify novel molecular targets that may be associated with relative resistance to radiation, and ultimately to target these molecules with drugs that can be used in combination with radiation. Dr. Haffty's team has previously demonstrated that the Bcl-2 protein, when overexpressed, is associated with radiation resistance, and that combining drugs that target Bcl-2 in combination with radiation significantly enhance the effectiveness of radiation in both cell cultures and laboratory models. In addition they have discovered a mechanism of resistance to this strategy, called autophagy. Based on this discovery, Dr. Haffty's team is combining anti-Bcl-2 therapy with anti-autophagy therapy in combination with radiation and has demonstrated enhanced activity. Finally they are identifying other novel molecular targets associated with radiation sensitivity and exploring whether these targets can be exploited to enhance the effectiveness of radiation in breast cancer.
Bruce G. Haffty, MD, is currently Professor and Chairman, Dept of Radiation Oncology, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and New Jersey Medical School and Associate Director of Clinical Sciences, Cancer Institute of New Jersey. His medical school training was at Yale School of Medicine, followed by an internship in internal medicine, residency and chief residency in the Department of Therapeutic Radiology, Yale School of Medicine, Yale-New Haven Hospital. Since completion of residency, Dr. Haffty spent the majority of his academic career at Yale School of Medicine, Department of Therapeutic Radiology, where he was a Professor of Therapeutic Radiology, served as residency program director from 1992 through 2004, Vice Chairman and Clinical Director from 2002-2005. He moved to the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Cancer Institute of New Jersey in 2005.
Dr. Haffty's clinical areas of expertise include breast cancer and head and neck cancer, for which he is internationally recognized. He has had numerous research grants and conducts clinical and translational research in his chosen areas of expertise. He has published over 200 peer-reviewed articles, 30 book chapters, and numerous editorials and letters. He recently completed editing a comprehensive book, Handbook of Radiation Oncology. He is consistently listed as one of the country's leading physicians by Best Doctors in America, Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, America's Top Doctors, Top Doctors for Cancer, and Top Doctors in New York and New Jersey.
In addition to a busy clinical practice, Dr. Haffty has served on numerous national committees related to research and education in radiation oncology, serves on the Editorial Board of numerous Medical Journals, and has mentored many medical students, trainees and junior faculty in conducting clinical and translational research. He is currently an Associate Editor of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, serves on the Executive Committees of the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers and American Radium Society, and Board of Directors of ASTRO. He is co-chairman of the BOOST program for RSNA, and currently serves as Chairman of the Residency Review Committee in Radiation Oncology, and a radiation oncology Trustee of the American Board of Radiology. Dr. Haffty is President-Elect of the American Society for Radiation Oncology.