You are here

BCRF Grantee Since


Donor Recognition

The Estée Lauder Companies Brands Award in Memory of Evelyn H. Lauder

Judy E. Garber, MD, MPH

Director, Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Director, Cancer Risk and Prevention Clinic,
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Professor of Medicine
Harvard Medical School
Boston, Massachusetts
Chairman, BCRF Scientific Advisory Board

Current Research

Women with mutations in the hereditary breast cancer genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, have much higher risks of breast and ovarian cancers that often develop early in life. The role of the BRCA genes is to maintain the integrity of the DNA by making sure it is reproduced correctly (with no errors) when cells divide. Work by Dr. Garber, in collaboration with her Dana-Farber colleague and fellow BCRF grantee, David Livingston, has identified a previously unknown function of BRCA1 and BRCA2 that may yield important information about the early steps that a normal cell must take to transform into a tumor cell in BRCA mutation carriers. In the coming year the researchers will test this function in ovarian cells, which could be like breast cells, or unlike them. These studies may lead to new insights into the early processes in the development of breast and possibly ovarian cancer in individuals carrying these inherited mutations and inform new approaches to cancer prevention for BRCA mutation carriers.

In addition, Dr. Garber and BCRF colleagues, Nadine Tung, Stuart Schnitt and others are conducting a randomized clinical trial designed to compare the relative effectiveness of cisplatin and standard chemotherapy (e.g., doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide, or “AC”) in women with early stage breast cancer who have inherited BRCA mutations. Cisplatin, a chemotherapy agent not typically used to treat breast cancer, has shown promising results in clinical trials in BRCA mutation carriers with breast cancer. There is reason to believe that cisplatin might be more effective than standard chemotherapy (e.g., AC) since it creates breaks in DNA which cannot be repaired in patients with BRCA mutations, leading to tumor cell death. The study investigators will conduct gene expression analysis on breast tumors to determine which patients respond better to each therapy. The study has now enrolled 56 patients out of a target accrual of 170. An additional five centers are in the process of opening the trial through the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium. Information on the trial can be found on (NCT01670500).


Judy E. Garber, MD, MPH is the Director of the Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention at the Susan Smith Center for Women's Cancers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Director of the Cancer Risk and Prevention Clinic at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Her interests focus on breast cancer genetics, risk reduction and pharmacogenetics. Using epidemiology, biostatistics and molecular biology, she leads risk reduction studies that aid in the development of interventions for individuals identified with a hereditary predisposition to breast cancer. Her research includes the study of basal-like breast cancer, common in women with BRCA1 mutations. Her first neo-adjuvant trial of cisplatin in patients based on the role of BRCA1 in DNA repair demonstrated a significant complete response rate that led to a series of trials, including a randomized phase II international, multicenter trial. Her research also includes the evaluation of novel agents targeting DNA repair defects in the treatment and prevention of triple negative or basal-like breast cancer, particularly platinums and PARP inhibitors.

Dr. Garber was elected to the Institute of Medicine in 2013. She is past a president and is currently a member of the Board of the American Association for Cancer Research. She also served on the Board of Scientific Counselors of the National Cancer Institute.  She has been a member of the BCRF Scientific Advisory Board since 2008.

Latest from Judy E. Garber