Second Collaborative Summit on Breast Cancer Research: Reflections on the Last Five Years and Future Directions
BCRF participated in the second Collaborative Summit on Breast Cancer Research, held on January 31 and February 1, 2013, in Washington, DC. Forty-seven organizations representing the nonprofit, advocacy, government, and pharmaceutical sectors assembled to review progress in the field since the first Collaborative Summit five years ago and to identify avenues for future research efforts. Members from major federal and nonprofit funders of breast cancer research presented on their contributions to the field since 2007.
Representing BCRF, Scientific Director Larry Norton, MD (Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, MSKCC), Scientific Advisory Board Chairman Clifford Hudis, MD (MSKCC), President Myra Biblowit, and Deputy Director Peg Mastrianni were in attendance. Ms. Mastrianni provided an overview of the funding landscape for breast cancer researchers in the last five years and described BCRF initiatives, as well as highlighting scientific advances that have resulted from BCRF funding. Ms. Biblowit moderated the panel, Updates on Breast Cancer Research, which featured presentations from BCRF-funded investigators. Dr. Norton unveiled the goals of new collaborative research on metastatic breast cancer to be launched in 2013 and supported by proceeds from the Evelyn Lauder Founder's Fund.
Among the presenters, Matthew J. Ellis, MD, PhD (Washington University School of Medicine) reported data from The Cancer Genome Atlas, specifically focusing on the estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) subtype. Dr. Ellis's team is applying the new information they have unearthed on cancer genetic mutations to help create a "map" of the various pathways that could be targeted with combination therapies.
Since 2007, obesity has become an ever more important public health concern. Dr. Hudis reported that recent data project that obesity will overcome tobacco as the leading risk factor for the development of epithelial cancers, which include breast, skin, and ovarian. In collaboration with Andrew Dannenberg, MD (Weill Cornell Medical College), Dr. Hudis has demonstrated for the first time the biological link between obesity, inflammation, and breast cancer. Their findings suggest that obesity, which is characterized by elevated inflammation levels, could trigger the development of some post-menopausal breast cancers. Their work has also now extended to examining the effectiveness of omega-3 fatty acids in reducing inflammation as a potential method to decrease breast cancer risk.
Funmi Olopade, MB, BS, FACP (University of Chicago) spoke about her work in the global setting and described the National Institutes of Health's shifting emphasis towards disease prevention, personalized treatment and risk assessment, and increasing participation in research from diverse populations. She used as example her involvement with the Consortium of Investigators of Modifiers of BRCA1/2, an international collaborative group that aims to elucidate the varied levels of breast cancer risk among BRCA1/2 mutation carriers of different ancestries. This research underscores the importance of global population-based research and the necessity of understanding the fundamental biology of breast cancer in order to comprehend how the disease manifests in different people.
One of the direct results from the first Collaborative Summit was the expansion of the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium (TBCRC), which was launched with seed funding from BCRF in 2006 and has since attracted support from Komen and Avon as well. TBCRC Executive Director Antonio Wolff, MD (Johns Hopkins School of Medicine) described the founding of the organization as driven by frustration shared by researchers and advocates on the inefficiencies of the research process. He provided an update on the TBCRC progress since 2007, including the participation of 17 member Comprehensive Cancer Centers and the initiation of 26 studies that have enrolled 1,072 patients on clinical trials and 1,310 patients on non-therapeutic trials (e.g. registry and retrospective studies).
In sum, the second Collaborative Summit reflected on the significant increase in cooperative activities on a global scale since 2007 among public charitable organizations, industry, and federal agencies. Given new advances in biotechnology, enhanced understanding of tumor biology, more focus on metastatic disease, and innovative use and sharing of data, there is much in breast cancer research to look forward to in the next five years.