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BCRF Grantee Since


Donor Recognition

The ULTA Beauty Award

Area(s) of Focus

W. Fraser Symmans, MD

Professor of Pathology
Director of Research Operations
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Houston, Texas

Current Research

Dr. Symmans’s work is focused on improving response to breast cancer therapies. He is particularly interested in identifying patients most likely to relapse after endocrine or chemotherapy so that early decisions can be made about treatment options. He does this by looking for DNA mutations in breast tumor samples from clinical trials and then correlating the mutations with how well the patient responded to therapy. From these efforts, Dr. Symmans and his colleagues have developed a multi-gene assay that was successful at predicting response to treatment in a small trial of triple negative breast cancers. In the coming year, they will continue their analyses of gene expression profiles using RNA sequencing and customized genomic assay methods to evaluate these techniques in samples from metastatic ER-positive breast cancer. In addition, they plan to complete analyses of the combined effects of pre-treatment extent of disease and post-treatment residual disease and to evaluate microarray-based genomic predictors of response in an ongoing validation study in patients with Stage II-III HER2-negative breast cancer. These studies, which would not be possible without BCRF support, have tremendous potential to change treatment of aggressive breast cancers.


Dr. Fraser Symmans is Professor and Director of Research Operations in the Department of Pathology at MD Anderson Cancer Center, where he practices Breast Surgical Pathology and Cytopathology and also directs the Breast Cancer Pharmacogenomics Laboratory. He received his medical degree from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, completed his residency at Columbia University, New York, and fellowship at MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston. Dr. Symmans joined the faculty of New York University Medical Center in 1993 and moved to MD Anderson Cancer Center in 2000. Dr. Symmans’ research is focused on breast cancer, with specific emphasis on neoadjuvant (pre-operative) treatment trials for evaluation of chemosensitivity and development of diagnostic tests to select the most effective treatments for individuals with breast cancer. This research program has led to the development of predictive molecular tests that are currently being evaluated in a prospective clinical trial. His other ongoing research is addressing the effects of biopsy sample quality on genomic test results in order to establish appropriate best practices for clinical diagnostic use. Additional responsibilities include: Co-Chair for the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium, Director of Translational Research Program for the Alliance clinical trials group, and member of the Breast Cancer Steering Committee for the National Clinical Trials Group.