NYU Langone Medical Center Awarded $4.5 Million for Breast Cancer Research by U.S. Department Of Defense

Silvia Formenti, MD, Chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology to Lead Novel Breast Cancer Research

April 18, 2011 (All day)

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. 

Media Inquiries:

Lauren Woods | 212-404-3555 office | 212-404-3753 direct | 917-301-5699 cell

 Lauren.woods@nyumc.org