Public Release:  NYU Langone Medical Center awarded $4.5 million for breast cancer research

Silvia Formenti, M.D., chair of the department of radiation oncology to lead novel breast cancer research

NYU Langone Medical Center / New York University School of Medicine

NYU Langone Medical Center announced today the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Breast Cancer Research Program (BCRP) of the Office of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs has awarded Silvia Formenti, MD, the Sandra and Edward Meyer Professor and Chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology a $4.5 million Multi-Team Award to conduct novel breast cancer research.

"This Multi-Team Award offers tremendous promise for new therapeutic options for patients with breast cancer and highlights the successes that may become possible through unique synergies of the outstanding team of scientists Dr. Formenti has brought together for this work," said Vivian S. Lee, MD, PhD, MBA, chief scientific officer and vice dean for Science at NYU Langone Medical Center. "The work of Dr. Formenti and her colleagues has already improved patient outcomes and with the recognition and support of the DOD, we anticipate important, high impact research breakthroughs are on the horizon."

As principal investigator, Dr. Formenti will lead a team of researchers to explore the combined effect of radiation therapy and immunotherapy in breast cancer. The study is designed to facilitate rapid translation of discovery from the laboratory to the clinic. The Multi-Team Award research team will include laboratory and clinical scientist teams with a long-standing collaboration from the NYU Cancer Institute and UCLA including Dr. Formenti, Sandra Demaria, MD, associate professor, Department of Pathology and Mary Helen Barcellos-Hoff, PhD, professor, Departments of Radiation Oncology and Cell Biology and UCLA's William McBride, MD, professor of Radiation Oncology.

Previous research by this team has demonstrated in pre-clinical models, the efficiency of combining immunotherapy, radiotherapy and the promise of introducing a TGFβ inhibitor to attack breast cancer tumors. The award will enable researchers to build upon their pre-clinical findings and translate the results to a clinical trial.

Researchers will test in clinical trial the efficiency of a novel antibody to neutralize TGFβ, a protein that controls cancer cell proliferation. The TGFβ inhibitor will target the breast cancer tumor's microenvironment to enhance sensitivity to radiation while stimulating an antitumor response in a patient's immune system. The goal of the study is to test whether by irradiating a metastatic site in combination with an antibody that blocks TGFβ it is possible to induce an effective anti-tumor immune response outside the radiation field in metastatic breast cancer patients. This novel concept is based on the hypothesis that radiation-induced treatment of the tumor site can vaccinate the patient against her own cancer, and enable immune rejection of tumor sites outside the radiation field.

"Our best ally in fighting cancer is our immune system," said Dr. Formenti, who leads the Breast Cancer Research Program at the NYU Cancer Institute. "We hope that the combination treatment of radiation therapy and immunotherapy by TGFβ inhibition will significantly extend survival and improve the quality of life of patients with metastatic breast cancer."

An important component of the Multi-Team Award research team's planning and implementation process will be its collaboration with breast cancer advocates and survivors from SHARE, a non-profit organization whose mission is to create a supportive community of women affected by breast or ovarian cancer and provide medical information.

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About The Cancer Institute at NYU Langone Medical Center:

The NYU Cancer Institute is an NCI-designated cancer center. Its mission is to discover the origins of human cancer and to use that knowledge to eradicate the personal and societal burden of cancer in our community, the nation and the world. The center and its multidisciplinary team of experts provide access to the latest treatment options and clinical trials along with a variety of programs in cancer prevention, screening, diagnostics, genetic counseling and supportive services. For additional information, please visit: www.nyuci.org.

About NYU Langone Medical Center:

NYU Langone Medical Center, a world-class patient-centered integrated academic medical center, is one of the nation's premier centers for excellence in health care, biomedical research, and medical education. Located in the heart of Manhattan, NYU Langone is comprised of three hospitals - Tisch Hospital, a 705-bed acute-care tertiary facility, Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, the first rehabilitation hospital in the world, with 174 beds and extensive outpatient rehabilitation programs, and the 190-bed Hospital for Joint Diseases, one of only five hospitals in the world dedicated to orthopaedics and rheumatology--plus the NYU School of Medicine, one of the nation's preeminent academic institutions. For more information, visit www.NYULMC.org.

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