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BCRF Grantee Since


Donor Recognition

The Hamptons Paddle & Party for Pink Award

Area(s) of Focus

Martine J. Piccart-Gebhart, MD, PhD

Professor of Oncology
Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB)
Director of the Medicine Department
TRANSBIG and Jules Bordet Institute
Brussels, Belgium

Current Research

Understanding the molecular basis of drug resistance and metastasis remains a tremendous challenge in the breast cancer field. AURORA is a multinational metastatic breast cancer molecular profiling program sponsored by the Breast International Group and receiving generous support from BCRF. The program, which  aims to recruit 1300 patients, has three major objectives: 1) To improve knowledge about the evolution of the disease, 2) to understand why some patients respond extremely well or very poorly to standard or targeted treatments, and 3) to offer patients the possibility of being enrolled in clinical trials with innovative targeted therapies. In AURORA, next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology is being used to identify aberrations in 411 cancer-related genes in patients’ primary and metastatic tumors. This type of targeted gene sequencing can identify small alterations of one or a few DNA nucleotides called single nucleotide variants (SNVs), as well as larger aberrations, where whole genes or chromosomal regions are deleted or amplified (CNAs). In addition to helping us to understand what drives a tumor, SNVs and CNAs can be targeted by drugs, providing clinical benefit to patients.  A BCRF-supported AURORA pilot study has demonstrated that the technique currently employed to detect CNAs has some limitations when compared to the gold-standard technique of single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) arrays, both in terms of the breadth and accuracy of the information obtained. Considering the importance of CNAs to understand the disease and implement treatments,  Dr. Piccart and her AURORA colleagues will determine the CNA profiles in primary and metastatic tumors of 150 AURORA patients using SNP arrays and then evaluate the clinical and scientific value of this information. These studies represent a continuation of efforts supported by BCRF through the AURORA program to enhance the available tools in understanding the biology of metastatic disease.

Dr. Piccart is also the lead investigator of the European component of the Evelyn H. Lauder Founder’s Fund, known as AURORA EU launched in April 2014 under the auspices of the Breast International Group (BIG). AURORA EU is a large, multinational, collaborative molecular screening program for metastatic breast cancer (MBC). Molecular screening uses technology that can characterize cancer on the genetic level in great detail. Understanding how MBC develops and evolves is essential to developing new and more targeted therapies, and improving outcomes for cancer patients in the future. AURORA EU aims to screen 1425 women and men with MBC – either newly diagnosed or having received one course of treatment – from 11 BIG collaborative research groups and 2 independent sites across 13 European countries. The AURORA program has already been activated in 16 sites within five BIG collaborative groups, and in one site in Luxemburg. Study investigators expect that all countries / sites will be activated by the first quarter of 2016.


Martine J. Piccart, MD, PhD, is Professor of Oncology at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Belgium, and Director of Medicine at the Institut Jules Bordet.

She is co-founder and chair of the Breast International Group (BIG), uniting 55 academic research groups from around the world, running over 30 trials, and developing numerous research programs. AURORA, a study to better understand metastatic breast cancer, is the most ambitious of these.

Dr. Piccart has been President of the European Cancer Organisation (ECCO) since January, 2014. She is past-president of the EORTC, immediate past-president of the European Society for Medical Oncology and served on the ASCO Board. Author or co-author of more than 470 peer-reviewed publications, she has received numerous prestigious awards, including the Jill Rose Award, the William L. McGuire Award, the Umberto Veronesi Award for the Future Fight against Cancer, and 2013 David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award.

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