Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women today (after lung cancer), and is the most common cancer among women, excluding non-melanoma skin cancers. Accordingly, clinical and translational research is a vital component of the Methodist Breast Center. The Chief of the Breast Medical Oncology Section, Dr. Edgardo Rivera, has brought together a multidisciplinary team of clinical investigators, basic scientists, surgeons, and radiologists to conduct a variety of research protocols that involve development of novel diagnostics, assessment of more effective treatments and treatment combinations, and innovative approaches to post-treatment reconstruction.
In collaboration with the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, one of Dr. Rivera’s studies involves the analysis of breast ductal fluid to identify clinically relevant tumor markers that may be useful in determining the prognosis and progression of the disease, as well as how the tumor will respond to different treatment options.
Multiple myeloma and lymphoma are two forms of cancer that affect the blood, bone marrow, and lymph nodes. While they are relatively uncommon cancers, their disease progression is particularly hideous and the 5–year survival rate remains low for most patients. Plasmablastic lymphoma, most commonly found in immunologically compromised people, is particularly aggressive and difficult to treat. Drs. Youli Zu is working on understanding the pathogenesis and molecular mechanisms involved in these diseases. Protocols in the laboratory involve identifying cellular molecules, genes, signaling pathways, and biological/chemical compounds as potential targets for disease diagnosis and treatment using state–of–the–art technologies such as multi-color flow cytometry, genomic/proteomic profiling, and inducible gene silencing.
While the incidence rate of ovarian cancer has been on the decline for decades, the disease retains the highest mortality rate of all cancers of the female reproductive system. Due to a lack of early symptoms and proven screening tests, most cases are diagnosed at an advanced and metastasized stage. Accordingly, Dr. Tri Dinh and colleagues in the Division of Gynecologic Oncology of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology conduct numerous industry sponsored clinical trials aimed at developing more effective treatments for patients with advanced ovarian cancer. Dr. Dinh’s research currently focuses on the testing of therapeutic monoclonal antibodies, and novel methods of drug delivery.
The Division is also a member of the Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG), the premier national gynecologic oncology research consortium. At any time, patients have access to trials targeting all gynecologic malignancies (vulva, cervix, uterine, and ovarian/peritoneal), as well as premalignant conditions (cervical dysplasia).
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men in the United States, and is responsible for more male cancer deaths than any other cancer except for primary lung cancer. While there are several successful treatment strategies currently available, they frequently come with permanent side effects such as incontinence and sexual dysfunction. Dr. Brian Butler and his colleagues are leading a research effort in the Department of Radiation Oncology that combines standard radiation therapy with new types of in situ gene therapy. Dr. Butler’s team has used several combination therapies in the successful treatment of prostate cancer, one of which has completed a successful FDA-approved Phase I/II trial, and is proceeding towards a Phase III.
Retinoblastoma is rare cancer that affects young children, with approximately 250–350 new cases diagnosed each year in the United States. Because this particular cancer originates in the retina of the eye(s), Dr. Patricia Chevez-Barrios and her research team in the Ophthalmic Pathology Research Laboratory are especially committed to finding novel treatments that will cure the disease while allowing the patient to preserve as much vision as possible. Consequently, the research efforts in Dr. Chevez–Barrios’ laboratory are focused on tumor progression at the molecular level and the identification of risk factors for metastasis.