Michaela Higgins, MB, BCh
2012-2013 BCRF Project
Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO
Breast Cancer Program
Department of Medicine
Massachusetts General Hospital
Up to 75% of patients with metastatic breast cancer will develop bone metastases during the course of their disease. This number is even higher among those with hormone-receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer. Thus, there is a great need to evaluate novel agents that may effectively treat bone metastases; however, patients with bone-only metastatic disease have traditionally been excluded from clinical trials due to the difficulty of measuring tumor in bone.
The phase 2 clinical trial being led by Dr. Higgins with BCRF support is designed specifically for patients with hormone-receptor positive breast cancer that has metastasized to bone. Fifty patients will receive the unique oral compound cabozantinib daily, and their response to the drug will be evaluated. Cabozantinib blocks several of the signaling pathways involved in how cancers make new blood vessels and overcome resistance to standard therapies. This compound has already shown impressive activity against bone metastases in patients with other cancers such as prostate and thyroid cancer. Dr. Higgins’s trial includes a unique collaboration with radiology to quantify bone scan and positron emission tomography (PET) scan response rates using new software techniques. The study also includes additional blood, urine and bone tests that will expand current understanding of how breast cancer affects bone.
Mid-year Progress: This phase 2 clinical trial continues to evaluate the effectiveness of the daily dosage of the oral compound cabozantinib. Opened in November 2011,the trial has enrolled 48 participants recruited from Massachusetts General Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The study is ongoing with the primary objective being to assess bone scan response rate among participants being treated with cabozantinib. Overall response rate, progression free survival, overall survival and PET/CT response rate are secondary study endpoints. Patient pain and analgesic usage diaries are also being collected.
Michaela Higgins, MB, BCh attended medical school at University College Dublin in her native Ireland. She completed her residency in Dublin and trained for two years as a fellow in Medical Oncology in Ireland before moving to the US and completing a three-year fellowship in Medical Oncology at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland. Dr. Higgins was awarded an American Society of Clinical Oncology Young Investigator Award in 2009 and served as Chief Fellow in Medical Oncology during her last year at Johns Hopkins. Dr. Higgins currently serves as an Attending Physician with the Breast Cancer Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. She is the recipient of a 2012 Conquer Cancer Foundation Career Development Award.
Dr. Higgins's research focus is on the incorporation of novel agents to overcome resistance to standard therapies in breast cancer. She is Principal Investigator of several clinical trials being offered to breast cancer patients. Dr. Higgins's work is supported by a Department of the Defense Breast Cancer Post Doctoral Award.