Dr. Susan Love Foundation for Breast Cancer Research’s 8th International Symposium on the Breast provides a unique opportunity for scientists and clinicians who conduct intraductal research or whose research could enhance the intraductal field to share knowledge and spark innovative ideas that could lead to significant breast cancer advances. This year’s Symposium was held Feb. 19-21in Santa Monica, California. At the outset, the attendees were challenged to form multidisciplinary consortia comprised of basis scientists, next generation technology experts, clinicians, and advocates, and to brainstorm an intraductal research project. Fourteen projects were proposed and four pilot grants were awarded. Three projects received pilot grants through a generous donation from the Susan G. Komen breast cancer organization; a fourth consortium received a $20,000 award funded by Atossa Genetics.

The questions these researchers will answer are: * Can premalignant changes in breast tissue be used to predict an individual woman’s breast cancer risk? This consortium includes Dr. Sabina Adhikary, a research associate at the Laboratory of Translational Immunology at the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, and Dr. Amy Degnim, who leads the Mayo Clinic Benign Breast Cohort in Rochester, Minnesota. They will investigate whether the presence or absence of certain lymphocytes (white blood cells that are part of the immune system) in women with benign breast disease are predictors of which women will go on to develop breast cancer.  Learning how the immune system helps and hinders the development of breast cancer could give us hints as to what causes it and how to prevent it.  

The potential of Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) on detecting early breast cancer via intraductal route* Can we identify pre-cancers from inside the breast duct? This consortium is led by Dr. Sheldon Feldman, chief of breast surgery at Columbia University in New York City, and Dr. Fatih Balci, an assistant professor at Acibadem University in Istanbul and a researcher at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Both are pioneers in intraductal approaches to human breast cancer. They will investigate whether optical coherence tomography (OCT), which is currently used in cardiology to look at blood vessels from the inside, can be used to identify early changes in the breast duct or ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). This work could set the stage for using OCT in breast cancer prevention research by giving us a way to easily monitor early signs of a duct heading down a cancerous path.

* Can we prevent invasive breast cancer by targting the protein JAM-A from inside the breast duct? Dr. Sara Sukumar, a pioneer in intraductal therapy research in animal models of breast cancer at Johns Hopkins, in Baltimore, leads this consortium in collaboration with Dr. Ann Hopkins, a researcher at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, who studies a protein, Junctional Adhesion Molecule-A (JAM-A), that plays a role in breast cancer progression. Together, they will study whether treatments delivered directly into the breast ducts could target JAMA-A and prevent or reduce DCIS in animal models of breast cancer. If the previous two pilot grants show that we could find early changes, this research could potentially give us a means to treat these changes intraductally.

* Can we use the intraductal approach to activate the immune system and prevent invasive breast cancer? This consortium is led by Dr. Peter Sieling, the assistant director of the Laboratory of Translational Immunology at the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica. They will use animal models to study whether is it safe and effective to put the drug flagellin, which has been found in laboratory studies to trigger an immune response that can inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells, inside the duct. This research could lead to the use of an intraductal immunotherapy to prevent invasive breast cancer. Each of the 14 research groups that presented a pilot grant included at least one advocate in their planning process. The advocates representing pilot grant winners will continue to be involved with their consortium teams for the duration of the pilot projects. We look forward to updating you on what these researchers learn!

1, 3, 4: 2015 Pilot Grants awarded at the Dr. Susan Love Foundation for Breast Cancer Research International Symposium on the Breast are funded by Susan G. Komen. : This Award is made possible by the generous support of Atossa Genetics

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