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BCRF Grantee Since


Donor Recognition

The Macy's Award

Area(s) of Focus

James M. Rae, PhD

Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and Pharmacology
Thomas H. Simpson Collegiate Professorship in Cancer Research
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Current Research

Anti-estrogen therapies such as tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors have dramatically improved outcomes in breast cancers that have the estrogen receptor (ER+). Not all women with ER+ tumors, however, will respond to these therapies and some may experience a cancer recurrence after treatment. The work of Drs. Rae and Hayes is focused on identifying genetic markers that will be able to predict whether an individual patient will respond to and tolerate specific anti-estrogen breast cancer therapies. To this end, they have been analyzing archived (stored) DNA from three of the largest clinical trials that tested the efficacy and safety of tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors (AIs), the "Intergroup Exemestane Study" (IES), the "Arimidex, Tamoxifen, Alone or in Combination" Trial (ATAC) and Breast International Group (BIG) 1-98 study. The value of these samples comes from the long-term follow up and comprehensive clinical outcomes data that will allow the investigators to identify possible gene variants associated with response to anti-estrogen therapy. In addition, to they are conducting preclinical studies using breast cancer models to identify potential mechanisms of anti-estrogen drug resistance. Collectively, their BCRF research will facilitate important genetic biomarker discoveries and important pharmacogenetic discoveries that will lead to better treatment strategies based on a patient’s genetic profile.


Dr. Rae received a BS in biology from the University of Pittsburgh and PhD in pharmacology from Georgetown University. In graduate school he combined his interest in breast cancer research with cutting-edge aspects of pharmacology including personalized medicine which uses a patient’s unique genetic makeup to guide treatment decisions. He moved to the University of Michigan in 2001 where he rose to the rank of Associate Professor (with tenure) in the Department of Internal Medicine and holds a joint appointment in the Department of Pharmacology. Dr. Rae’s principal expertise is in the area of cancer drug metabolism, pharmacogenetics/genomics, translational oncology, biomarker identification and characterization, and estrogen receptor signaling, particularly as these may apply to the prediction of breast cancer treatment response. His current research focuses on identifying the subset of estrogen receptor positive breast cancer patients who will respond to endocrine therapy. His work involves two major lines of investigation; one attempts to predict patient response to therapy using a pharmacogenetics approach, while the other seeks to identify and characterize the role of steroid hormone signaling in the growth regulation of breast cancer and the molecular and cellular biology of malignant progression. His work in pharmacogenetics, the study of genetic variability in the way patients respond to medications, involves studies with tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors and the use of genetic testing to identify patients likely to respond to therapy.