Highlights from BCRF Contributions to the 2013 ASCO Annual Meeting
The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) held its Annual Meeting from May 31 through June 4 in Chicago. BCRF grantees contributed significantly to this year's proceedings through presentations of their studies. A handful of highlights are described below.
One-Fifth of Breast Cancer Patients of African American Descent Found to Have BRCA Mutations
In a study involving 249 black breast cancer patients in the Chicago area, almost one-fifth were found to have mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, which have been commonly associated with women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent and are known to raise one's risk of breast cancer. This project, a collaboration between BCRF grantees, Mary-Claire King, PhD
(University of Washington) and Funmi Olopade, MB, BS, FACP
(University of Chicago), is the first comprehensive study of gene mutations in the African American population and is providing early insights into why the triple negative breast cancer subtype, believed to be linked to BRCA1 gene mutations, is found more frequently in this population and in younger women.
Obesity and Inflammation: the Dangerous Duo in Breast Cancer
BCRF grantees, Andrew Dannenberg, MD (Weill Cornell Medical College) and Jennifer Ligibel, MD (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute), led a panel reviewing current data on the obesity and breast cancer link, as well as potential interventions to help reduce risk. Dr. Dannenberg presented data from his original BCRF-funded research collaboration with Chairman of BCRF's Scientific Advisory Board Clifford Hudis, MD (Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, MSKCC), which examined the biological connection between obesity, inflammation, and increased risk for developing HR+ breast cancer. Dr. Ligibel complemented Dr. Dannenberg's laboratory findings by examining current clinical interventions to reduce risk, including the use of anti-inflammation and anti-diabetes drugs and weight-loss strategies.
Beyond the Science of Illness: the Personal Impact of Patient Care on Physicians
In a special education session aimed to improve physician training, BCRF Scientific Director Larry Norton, MD (MSKCC) spoke on "How My Patients Taught Me to Become a Better Doctor." Mixing humor with insights, Dr. Norton described experiences that have shaped his patient-centered approach towards clinical care and emphasized the importance of listening to patients, assessing issues from several perspectives, and involving also "concerned others" when making treatment decisions. "You cannot separate being a good physician from being a good person" was one of several precepts that Dr. Norton shared with the audience. "We have to touch the potential healer that is in everyone."
Science and Society
Following his inauguration, Dr. Clifford Hudis announced the theme of "Science and Society" for his ASCO presidency. In a thoughtful commentary on the ASCO website, he reflected:
... As proud and pleased as we are with what we have collectively accomplished, the problem we confront and the reason we exist, is far too large, complex, and destructive -- despite our advances -- to allow us to rest on our laurels. Instead, I hope we will respectfully embrace the wonderful progress we have made, reflect on our continuing and evolving challenges, and aim ever higher.
Read Dr. Hudis's commentary in its entirety on the ASCO website...