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Breast Cancer Research

Program Co-Leaders: Elaine Mardis, PhD, Jason Weber, PhD, and Katherine Weilbaecher, MD  

The long-term goals of the Breast Cancer Research Program (BCRP) are to elucidate the basic mechanisms that regulate breast cancer pathology and to use this information to develop strategies for prevention, diagnosis and treatment of all stages and subtypes of breast cancer. Working groups in clinical, basic and population sciences have been established to identify and develop novel strategies for implementation in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. These three groups work in collaboration guided by the hypothesis that advances in basic and population science can be leveraged to have a unique clinical impact in successfully treating breast cancer. These institutional translational efforts are categorized in three specific aims:

  • To expand clinical treatment of breast cancer using research-based paradigms.
  • To utilize institutional expertise in basic sciences to identify new translational targets and treatment regimens and help advance these clinically.
  • To reduce risk and ethnic disparities in breast cancer through targeted prevention and genomic strategies.

BCRP includes 23 faculty members from eight departments and three schools across Washington University and Saint Louis University campuses to form an integrated group dedicated to research on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. Program members have diverse interests, including:

  • Breast health communications
  • The pathology and biology of premalignant lesions
  • The development of intrinsic breast cancer subtype assays
  • Translational research on endocrine therapy resistance in the context of cooperative group neoadjuvant endocrine therapy trials
  • The development of novel therapeutics that target both tumor cells and bone and immune system cells

We also are very actively investigating novel imaging approaches for predicting response to hormonal therapy. In addition, the program is collaborating with Washington University's Genome Center in an effort to unravel the genetic changes associated with breast cancer susceptibility, initiation, progression, relapse and resistance. Program members are advancing new breast cancer models in order to develop preclinical justifications for investigator-initiated clinical trials in our developmental therapeutics programs. Classes of agents under development include phosphoinositol-3-kinase inhibitors, hedgehog inhibitors, check point homolog kinase (CHK1) inhibitors and Trop2 antibodies.