When the MSP gene is turned on in mouse breast tumors, it increases metastasis. An MSP test for human tumors would help identify people whose breast cancer is more likely to spread through the body. MSP also offers a potential target for new breast cancer treatments. When an MSP-specific treatment is developed, testing for MSP in breast tumor tissue may identify appropriate candidates to receive that treatment. These results were reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science in May 2007.
MSP is turned on in about 10 percent of human breast tumors, so the test and treatment could impact approximately 18,000 breast cancer patients in the United States annually.
In autumn 2007, Welm won the highly prestigious and competitive Era of Hope Scholar Award for Breast Cancer Research. She has also received a grant from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the American Association for Cancer Research to develop an MSP test for human breast cancer tissue in collaboration with Philip Bernard, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Pathology and HCI investigator. The second aim of the research is to test possible new MSP-specific therapies in mice.
A clinical trial initiated at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) could result in a new way to predict the most effective cancer drugs for patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and identify a patient’s response early in treatment. This information could improve survival rates and decrease treatment costs; patients would receive the most effective drugs for their cancer.
The trial will use noninvasive imaging techniques and blood tests to develop biomarkers (biochemical features that measure the progress of disease and response to treatment) that can predict which patients with NSCLC are most likely to benefit from a combi- nation of bevacizumab (Avastin) and erlotinib (Tarceva).
Alana Welm, PhD, uses mouse models to study breast cancer.
“Our mouse model has shown that it is quite representative of the human disease,” says Welm. “The tumors grow and metastasize to the same locations as in humans. Mouse models really do inform us about the clinical aspects of the disease. Without these mice, we would not have followed the MSP pathway to this potential new treatment.”
On the web: See a list of HCI researchers’ publications in 2007: huntsmancancer.org/annualreport2007
“This is the first time these drugs have been tested as a first-line treatment for NSCLC, although they already have FDA approval for use along with chemotherapy,” says Wallace Akerley, MD, HCI’s senior director of clinical research and an initiator of the trial, along with John Hoffman, MD, director of HCI’s Molecular Imaging Program. Andrea Bild, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and a member of HCI’s Cancer Center Support Grant’s Molecular Imaging, Diagnostics, and Therapeutics (MIDT) program, is also a co-investigator. The study’s imaging and biomarker portion is funded by the University of Utah’s Synergy program, which supports innovative projects bringing university research groups together.
Eventually, cancer patients throughout Utah can take part in the clinical trial via the Huntsman-Intermountain Cancer Care Program, a research alliance between HCI and Intermountain Healthcare.
2007 Annual Report 13
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