Professor of Oncology
Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB)
Director of the Medicine Department
TRANSBIG and Jules Bordet Institute
In recent years, the implementation of next-generation sequencing technologies has confirmed the complexity of breast cancer biology and strengthened the importance of personalized treatment. In the context of AURORA, a large, multinational and multicenter molecular screening program supported by the Breast International Group (BIG), the primary and metastatic breast cancer samples of 1,000 patients will be thoroughly characterized at the molecular level with the aims to better understand disease clonal evolution and mechanisms of resistance and sensitivity to therapy. In order to characterize the metastatic disease during its evolution under treatment, researchers led by Dr. Piccart-Gebhart intend to identify on a large-scale the best non-invasive indicator of tumor burden and response or resistance mechanisms to treatment. With recent evidence showing the utility of the characterization of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) for this purpose, serial plasma samples will be collected for patients enrolled in this screening program. Since data on the pre-analytical variables that could affect proper sample collection and processing are currently lacking, with this project Dr. Piccart-Gebhart proposes to set up a pilot study addressing several key practical issues that may affect plasma collection and ctDNA quality and quantity on a series of prospectively collected plasma samples. This will define the best conditions for collecting high quality plasma samples to ensure successful ctDNA analysis. This work, which will result in the writing of specific guidelines and recommendations, will not only benefit AURORA but also future clinical and translational studies interrogating the question of “liquid biopsy.”
In the context of AURORA (previously the program was called PRISM-BC), a large, multinational and multicenter molecular screening program supported by the Breast International Group (BIG), the primary and metastatic breast cancer samples of 1300 patients—an increase in size from what was originally planned— will be thoroughly characterized at the molecular level with the aims to better understand disease clonal evolution and mechanisms of resistance and sensitivity to therapy.
At the end of this grant period, it is foreseen that specific guidelines and recommendations will be written. This work will not only benefit AURORA but also future clinical and translational studies interrogating the question of “liquid biopsy”.
Dr. Piccart is Professor of Oncology at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and Director of Medicine at the Jules Bordet Institute, in Brussels, Belgium. Earning her medical degrees at the ULB and oncology qualifications in New York and London, she is also member of the Belgian Royal Academy of Medicine. With a primary interest in breast cancer and drug development, Dr. Piccart is a leader in international research collaboration, and is the principal or co-principal investigator of many clinical trials, including HERA, MINDACT, and ALTTO. She is co-founder and chair of the Breast International Group (BIG), uniting 50 academic research groups from around the world and running over 30 trials under its umbrella. BIG's research programs include NeoBIG, an innovative biomarker and drug development program focused on neo-adjuvant trials. It also included the European Commission-supported TRANSBIG consortium of 29 institutions in 11 countries (running with the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer's MINDACT trial), which ended in February 2011. Dr. Piccart is active in numerous professional organizations, currently serving as president-elect of European Society of Medical Oncology. She is immediate past-president of the EORTC and served on the American Society of Clinical Oncology Board. (Co) author of more than 300 publications in peer-reviewed journals, she has received numerous prestigious awards for her research contributions, including most recently in 2009, BCRF's Jill Rose Award and the William L. McGuire Award at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.
Dr. Piccart-Gebhart is the current president of the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO).