BCRF sat down with Dr. Clifford Hudis to discuss his current work and interest in breast cancer research. Read on to learn more.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself and how you became interested in breast cancer research.
A:I became interested in breast cancer the same way I became interested in cancer in general: a happy coincidence of scientific curiosity and a motivated and inspiring mentor. As a resident in Internal Medicine I enjoyed a rotation through my hospital's Oncology Division led by a beloved "American Cancer Society Professor" and saw the clearest implementation of the combination of optimism, increasing technology, and hands-on medicine that first drew me to medicine as a career. When I came to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center as a research fellow I was assigned to the new clinic of Larry Norton and he, too, was able to show me a clear example of how evolving technology was going to convert a dreaded disease into a more manageable and ultimately curable problem.
Q: Briefly describe your research project.
A: My BCRF funded research is conducted in collaboration with the laboratory of Andrew Dannenberg at Weill College of Medicine across the street from Memorial Hospital. It focuses on the role played by a universal enzyzme, COX-2, in breast cancer. Our hypothesis is that COX-2 is more activated in some kinds of breast cancer and that its inhibition will enable us to better prevent and treat the disease. At present our goal is to complete the development of a very specialized laboratory model of COX-2 deficiency so that we can more clearly study the impact of this enzyme on the development of breast cancer.
Q: Who do you think will benefit from your research?
A: Our research has broad public health potential. Because aspirin and other COX inhibitors are used by millions of men and women every day, our work could identify how best to leverage this exposure ideally to prevent some specific kinds of breast cancer.
Q: How has your research focus changed since your first BCRF grant, and how would you say that our grants have had an impact on your work and the field?
A: We have been funded for 4 years. During that time we have used this funding to do laboratory experiments that would otherwise have been unfunded. As a result, we have been able to obtain larger funding from the National Cancer Institute to conduct a research trial in women about to undergo routine surgery for breast cancer. This experiment provides us with human tissues that correlate with our laboratory experiments. Without the "seed" money provided by BCRF we would have had a much more difficult time convincing reviewers that our science was worthy of this investment.
Q. How close do you think we are to preventing or finding a cure for breast cancer?
A. It is becoming increasingly clear that breast cancer is truly a collection of related diseases. On a practical level this suggests that we will not be likely to observe a single curative treatment approach. Instead I think it is most likely that we will see significant gains in the prevention and treatment of specific subtypes of the disease.
Read more about Dr. Hudis' current research project funded by BCRF.