Here are just a few research highlights from the Breast Cancer Program.
The IU Breast Care and Research Center and IU Simon Cancer Center collaborate with the IU School of Medicine Pharmacogenetics Center, directed by David Flockhart, MD, PhD. Pharmacogenetics allows researchers to study all the many different genes that determine drug behavior in cancer. This genetic data then can be used to determine the best therapy with the least side effects for specific individuals.
IU breast cancer researchers are currently involved in The Pharmacogenetics Project funded by the national Pharmacogenetic Research Network. The project aims to study the genes that influence the behavior of an important class of drugs, the Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERMs). SERMS include tamoxifen, commonly prescribed for women with breast cancer and women at high-risk for the disease, as well as estrogen used for hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Data gathered will help determine the genetic profile of individuals most likely to respond favorably to SERMS, help researchers better develop new drugs of this type, and shed light on the current controversy related to HRT.
The Pharmacogenetics principal investigator is Dr. Flockhart, and IU co-investigators include Stephen Hall, PhD, Kathy Miller, MD, Todd Skaar, PhD, Anna Maria Storniolo, MD, Christopher Sweeney, MBBS, and Desta Zeruesenay, PhD.
Tamoxifen Pharmacogenetics: Some Preliminary Results
About 80 percent of women who take tamoxifen get hot flashes. Because hot flashes can create discomfort, doctors may prescribe antidepressants like paroxetine to make tamoxifen more tolerable.
Although treatment recommendations have been withheld until researchers have final data, taking tamoxifen and paroxetine together may not be a good idea. In a study led by Flockhart, some women who took both drugs at the same time had substantially lower levels of a key by-product of tamoxifen—evidence that paroxetine does affect how some individuals process tamoxifen.
The Friends for Life study is a collaborative effort between the IU Simon Cancer Center and the Center for Pharmacogenomics. It is supported by the Catherine Peachey Fund for Breast Cancer Survivors, the Indiana University General Clinical Research Center, and the national Pharmacogenetics Research Network. The goal of the study is to identify genes that are involved in the etiology and treatment of breast cancer.
The study involves breast cancer survivors, their friends and family and was initiated on April 16, 2005, with the collection of DNA samples from more than 850 women in one day at the Indianapolis Susan G Komen Foundation Race for the Cure. Target enrollment was 1,000 women; sisters Patricia Kersten and Diane Massa (left) were the last to give DNA samples.