Professor of Oncology
Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB)
Director of the Medicine Department
TRANSBIG and Jules Bordet Institute
Understanding the molecular basis of drug resistance and metastasis remains a tremendous challenge in the breast cancer field. Liquid biopsies represent a non-invasive, safe and efficient way to identify potential circulating markers that can be informative about the tumor or in monitoring drug response and risk of metastasis. Circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) obtained in liquid biopsies may hold the answers to mysteries of drug resistance and metastasis, but many technical issues in collecting and analyzing this precious material need to be addressed before it can be used in the clinical setting. The primary goals of Dr. Piccart’s BCRF project in the coming year are to utilize the framework of the Breast International Group – North American Breast Cancer Group (BIG-NABCG) collaboration to standardize the procedures for the collection and characterization of ctDNA and then to use these protocols to characterize the ctDNA of metastatic breast cancer patients enrolled in the AURORA trial, the European-based efforts to better understand metastasis launched last year through support from the Evelyn Lauder Founder’s Fund at BCRF. Comparisons of circulating tumor DNA with that of the primary and metastatic tissue collected from the same patients at the same time will help to determine if ctDNA can be used to characterize and monitor breast cancer, rather than relying on tissue biopsies. These studies will enhance the available tools in understanding the biology of metastatic disease and spare patients from risky and painful procedures.
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, 2104. 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 420 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.