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BCRF Grantee Since

2013

Donor Recognition

The Celebrity Cruises Award

Area(s) of Focus

Mark Pegram, MD

Director, Breast Cancer Program
Co-Director, Translational Oncology Program and Associate Director for Clinical Research, Stanford Cancer Institute
Susy Yuan-Huey Hung Professor
Stanford School of Medicine

Current Research

In order to survive, grow and spread, breast cancer cells must produce an abundance of growth-promoting proteins. Many of these proteins–called oncoproteins–are present on the surface of the cancer cells, such as the HER2 receptor, and have been used as targets for therapy. Many others however are inside of the cells and are not easily targeted by current drugs. An alternative approach to breast cancer treatment would be to prevent or stop the production of these oncoproteins to make cancer cells more sensitive to anti-cancer drugs. Dr. Pegram and his colleagues discovered a unique feature in the way cancer cells produce oncoproteins, a process called alternative protein translation. They have devised a method to cripple the cells and prevent cancer growth by blocking the proteins that are involved in this process. In their 2014-2015 BCRF project, they will use advanced laboratory techniques to inhibit the proteins that regulate alternative translation and study the effects on breast cancer cells. In addition, they will analyze breast tumor tissue to determine the usefulness of this therapeutic idea for breast cancer patients. The research team will work closely with Breast Cancer Connections (BCC), a patient advocacy group in Palo Alto, CA, to disseminate results and discuss results. This study represents an entirely new strategy for the treatment of breast cancer and could lead to new therapeutic targets for drug development.

Bio

Mark D. Pegram, MD is a renowned clinician and scholar in breast cancer research and a leader in translational medicine. Dr. Pegram played a major role in developing the drug Herceptin as a treatment for HER2-positive breast cancer, which constitutes about 20 percent of all cases. His laboratory experiments demonstrated that combining Herceptin with chemotherapy effectively killed cancer cells that overproduced the growth factor HER2. Dr. Pegram and others then conducted clinical trials showing that Herceptin improved survival rates and even cured some breast cancer patients. This remains one of the premier examples of bench-to-bedside translational research. Dr. Pegram’s current research efforts include a continued focus on the cancer-associated gene that encodes HER2 and developing new ways to target cancer cells expressing this protein. He is also pursuing strategies to target estrogen receptors, implicated in some 70 percent of all breast cancer cases.