Harold E. Lee Chair in Cancer Research
Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, California
Approximately 70% of breast cancers have estrogen receptor protein (ER+) and require the hormone estrogen for growth. Current treatment involves anti-hormone therapies that block ER, such as tamoxifen, or reduce the levels of estrogen, as with aromatase inhibitors. While these treatments have dramatically improved outcomes of ER+ breast cancer, a significant proportion of women with ER+ breast cancers do not benefit from anti-hormone treatment or experience recurrence of their disease. Preliminary results from Dr. Press and his colleagues suggest that changes in additional ER regulators, proteins that work with ER to regulate processes in cell growth and survival, may play important roles in responsiveness to anti-estrogen therapies. In some breast cancers, amplification (multiple duplications) of the HER2 gene may cause resistance to anti-estrogen therapies. The focus of Dr. Press’s BCRF research is to identify ER co-factors that may be mutated or altered in human breast cancers, determine whether these alterations are associated with resistance to conventional treatments and develop therapeutic strategies to address these alterations.
Dr. Press is a Professor in the Department of Pathology and holds the Harold E. Lee Chair in Cancer Research at the University of Southern California’s Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Press is a board certified pathologist, directs the USC Breast Cancer Analysis Laboratory as well as the Central Laboratory for the Translational Research In Oncology (TRIO)/Cancer International Research Group (CIRG), and is Leader of the USC Clinical Laboratories.
His laboratory evaluates prognostic and predictive markers used in making treatment decisions for women with breast cancer. It has served as the Central Laboratory for either retrospective or prospective analyses of tissue specimens for 18 clinical trials that collectively accrued more than 13,000 patients. Dr. Press’s area of research interest is in molecular alterations of breast and gynecologic cancers, especially those that have the potential to be important in either diagnostic or therapeutic decision-making for patient management. His research has been continuously funded by research grants for more than 25 years. He is the author or co-author of more than 200 peer-reviewed publications. The most prominent area of activity for his laboratory has been in the study of the human epidermal growth factor receptor type 2 (HER2) in breast and other cancers. He published his first paper in this area in 1989 (Science 244: 707-712, 1989) and his laboratory is still actively contributing to this area as well as to the conduct of clinical trials evaluating HER2 as a target for therapy.