P16, a gene that inhibits cell division, increases 10-20 fold between the ages of 20 and 80, making it a molecular marker of aging. Work by Dr. Muss and colleagues have shown that standard breast cancer chemotherapy increases p16 levels up to 200 percent in immune cells (T-lymphocytes) of breast cancer patients. According to their data, those patients with a greater change in p16 levels during chemotherapy are more likely to have greater hematologic toxicity, a side effect that affects blood cells. In his 2014-2015 BCRF project Dr. Muss will study this relationship to determine whether p16 might prove to be an independent marker that predicts chemotherapy-related toxicity, which would help to tailor individual treatment for breast cancer patients. Dr. Muss is also studying ways to increase exercise in breast cancer patients to reduce side effects of chemotherapy and improve breast cancer outcomes.
Dr. Muss is an experienced clinician-scientist, a Professor of Medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, and the Director of the Geriatric Oncology Program at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center Program. He has a major interest and research expertise in the care of women with breast cancer and has developed and been PI of multiple clinical and translational trials. He was the lead author of a CALGB trial and seminal NEJM article that compared standard with oral chemotherapy in older women with early stage breast cancer. In addition, he has previously chaired the Breast Committee of the CALGB and currently is co-chair the Alliance (NCI Cooperative Group) Committee on Cancer in the Elderly. He has been Medical Oncology Chair and a member of the board of Directors of the American Board of Internal Medicine, and a member of the Board of Directors of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the Conquer Cancer Foundation. He was awarded the B.J. Kennedy Award in Geriatric Oncology by ASCO, and was awarded the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Clinical Research in 2012. He served in the US Army in Vietnam where he was awarded the Bronze Star medal. His current research focuses on geriatric oncology and breast cancer, with a special interest in breast cancer in older women.