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BCRF Grantee Since

2007

Donor Recognition

The Play for P.I.N.K. Award

Area(s) of Focus

Bruce G. Haffty, MD

Professor and Chairman, Department of Radiation Oncology
UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Associate Director
Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
New Brunswick, New Jersey

Current Research

Dr. Haffty’s laboratory is investigating novel molecular targets that can be used in combination with radiation therapy to enhance the effectiveness of radiation and improve outcomes in women undergoing radiation for breast cancer. Their strategy is to identify novel molecular targets that may be associated with relative resistance to radiation, and ultimately to target these molecules with drugs that can be used in combination with radiation. Dr. Haffty has demonstrated that the Bcl-2 protein, when overexpressed, is associated with radiation resistance, and that combining drugs that target Bcl-2 in combination with radiation significantly enhance the effectiveness of radiation in both cell cultures and laboratory models. These studies will pave the way for clinical trials employing this strategy. In addition, Dr. Haffty and colleagues have identified that the glutamate receptor target, GRM-1, enhances radiation sensitivity in breast cancer. GRM-1 can be targeted with a currently available FDA approved drug, Riluzole. Experiments in the laboratory setting demonstrate that the combination of Riluzole and radiation is an effective strategy in breast cancer. Finally, Dr. Haffty’s team is identifying other novel molecular targets associated with radiation sensitivity and exploring whether these targets can be exploited to enhance the effectiveness of radiation in breast cancer. In addition to the tissue microarray they have used in invasive breast cancers to explore novel molecular markers associated with radiation failures, they have developed a DCIS tissue microarray which they will begin to explore for novel molecular markers associated with local failures in DCIS.

Mid-Year Summary

Dr. Haffty’s laboratory is investigating novel molecular targets that can be used in combination with radiation therapy to enhance the effectiveness of radiation and improve outcomes in women undergoing radiation for breast cancer. They have demonstrated that the Bcl-2 protein, which is often over-expressed in breast cancer, is associated with radiation resistance, and that combining drugs that target Bcl-2 in combination with radiation significantly enhance the effectiveness of radiation in both cell cultures and laboratory models. They have completed animal experiments that demonstrate the effectiveness of this approach and discovered a mechanism that helps to explain the synergy between radiation and Bcl-2 inhibition.

In a separate project, they have begun a series of experiments evaluating how larger single doses of radiation work in breast cancer. These larger doses (also referred to as stereotactic radiosurgery or extreme hypofractionation) are being used with increasing frequency in breast cancer, but the biology behind this approach has not been extensively evaluated. The researchers are evaluating the effectiveness of this approach compared with more standard doses of radiation and exploring the mechanism of cell death and how to exploit novel targeted therapy with these larger single doses of radiation. Finally they are identifying other novel molecular targets associated with radiation sensitivity and exploring whether these targets can be exploited to enhance the effectiveness of radiation in breast cancer.

Bio

Dr. Bruce G. Haffty is currently Professor and Chairman of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and New Jersey Medical School and Associate Director of the Cancer Institute of New Jersey. His medical school training was at Yale School of Medicine, followed by an internship in internal medicine, residency and chief residency in the Department of Therapeutic Radiology, Yale School of Medicine, Yale-New Haven Hospital. Since completion of residency, Dr. Haffty spent the majority of his academic career at Yale School of Medicine, Department of Therapeutic Radiology, where he was a Professor of Therapeutic Radiology, served as residency program director from 1992 through 2004, Vice Chairman and Clinical Director from 2002-2005. He moved to the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Cancer Institute of New Jersey in 2005.

Dr. Haffty’s clinical areas of expertise is breast cancer, and he has focused much of his career on outcomes and prognostic factors in young women and genetically pre-disposed women, in which he has had numerous research grants and conducted a number of clinical and translational research programs. He has published over 300 peer-reviewed articles, 30 book chapters, and numerous editorials and letters. He is consistently listed as one of the country’s leading physicians by Best Doctors in America and Top Doctors in New York and New Jersey.

In addition to a busy clinical practice, Dr. Haffty has served on numerous national committees related to research and education in breast cancer and radiation oncology. He is currently an Associate Editor of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, has recently completed his term on the Executive Committees of the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers. Dr. Haffty is a Past President of the American Radium Society, and past Chairman of the Residency Review Committee in Radiation Oncology. He is the incoming president of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO). He is co-chairman of the BOOST program for RSNA, and Past President of the American Board of Radiology.