Two prominent physician-scientists whose work has led to less invasive and more personalized treatments for breast cancer are being honored as this year’s winners of the prestigious Susan G. Komen for the Cure® Brinker Awards for Scientific Distinction in basic science and clinical research, the highest awards of merit given by the world’s leading breast cancer organization.
This year’s awards will be presented Dec. 7 to Armando E. Giuliano, M.D., executive vice chair of Surgery for Surgical Oncology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and Carlos L. Arteaga, M.D., professor of Medicine and Cancer Biology at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
Dr. Giuliano is receiving the Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Clinical Research for research that has led to less invasive surgical treatments for breast cancer, specifically the removal of fewer lymph nodes in certain women with early stage breast cancer. Giuliano demonstrated that surgeons can often remove sentinel nodes, or the first lymph nodes that cancer reaches, rather than performing complete lymph node removal, thus reducing potential complications and debilitating side effects from the latter procedure. Giuliano also was instrumental in developing less invasive surgical techniques such as needle biopsies rather than surgical biopsies for many breast cancer patients, and other breast-conserving techniques.
Dr. Arteaga is receiving the Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Basic Science for his work explaining the role of several key proteins and growth factor receptors in the pathogenesis of breast cancer. His translational research helped provide the rationale for many of our new targeted therapies. Arteaga has the rare ability to conduct cutting-edge laboratory work and innovative clinical trials, and his work will continue to move the field forward and lead to the next generation of “smart drugs”.
“The pioneering work of these two scientists has had, and will continue to have, a significant impact on the quality of treatment and quality of life for breast cancer survivors,” said Dr. Eric Winer, Komen’s chief scientific advisor and chair of Komen’s Scientific Advisory Board. “We’re moving ever closer to an era of more personalized and less invasive treatments for this disease, thanks in large part to the foundation that these two scientists have built in translational science and clinical practice.”
Komen has invested $685 million to breast cancer research since opening its doors in 1982 and is the largest private funder of breast cancer research, this year investing $66 million to new research and programs to advance understanding, prevention and treatment of breast cancer. Currently, Komen is funding 572 research projects totaling more than $300 million worldwide.
Giuliano and Arteaga will deliver keynote lectures Dec. 7 at the 34th annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, a major international gathering of breast cancer researchers, clinicians and patient advocacy organizations being held Dec. 6-10 in San Antonio, Texas. Their institutions will also receive a $25,000 award to further their activities in breast cancer research.
The Brinker Awards for Scientific Distinction were established in 1992 to recognize the efforts of pioneers in two critically important areas of the fight to end breast cancer: clinical research and basic science. The roster of Komen Brinker Award laureates has grown to include names of researchers who have made the most significant advances in breast cancer research and medicine.
About the Brinker Award Winners
Armando E. Giuliano, MD, FACS, FRCSEd, is being honored for his seminal work investigating sentinel lymph node biopsy as an alternative to removal of underarm lymph nodes (complete axillary dissection) for women with breast cancer. His work has had a significant impact on the standard of care and quality of life for breast cancer survivors by reducing the side effects associated with determining lymph node involvement.
Dr. Giuliano’s 30-year research career as a breast surgeon-scientist has been dedicated to reducing the short- and long-term side effects associated with breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. Some of his early endeavors included analysis of fine needle aspiration as a diagnostic tool, comparison of mastectomy to lumpectomy, and other studies that have reduced the need for radical surgery in many breast cancer patients.
In 1991, Dr. Giuliano’s focus shifted to the benefits of sentinel lymph node biopsy for breast cancer patients as an alternative to complete axillary dissection. He showed that the sentinel node could be identified and, if free of cancer, other axillary nodes were most likely cancer-free as well. The medical community rapidly embraced this finding and, over the next five years, sentinel node biopsies became standard treatment for women with early stage breast cancer. More recently, Dr. Giuliano led two large, ground-breaking clinical trials, demonstrating that some women with node-positive breast cancer may also be able to avoid complete axillary dissection without increasing their risk of recurrence or death from breast cancer.
Dr. Giuliano currently serves as the Executive Vice Chair of Surgical Oncology in the Department of Surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Calif. He also serves as the Associate Director of Surgical Oncology at Cedars-Sinai’s Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute and Co-Director of Cedars-Sinai’s Saul and Joyce Brandman Breast Center – A Project of the Women’s Guild. He received his medical degree at the University of Chicago, completed his residency in Surgery at UCSF, and completed a fellowship in Surgical Oncology at UCLA. He retains appointments as Clinical Professor of Surgery at UCLA and at USC.
Dr. Giuliano’s research to advance less invasive surgical treatments for breast cancer is improving the lives of countless women every year and will continue to change the way that breast cancer is treated internationally.
Carlos L. Arteaga, M.D., is being honored for his extensive contributions to breast cancer research, which have been instrumental in explaining the role of several key proteins and growth factor receptors in the pathogenesis of breast cancer. Dr. Arteaga’s research has contributed to the foundation for clinical use of several widely used breast cancer drugs that target these proteins, and has demonstrated the potential for targeting others in future therapy development.
Dr. Arteaga’s research has been instrumental in characterizing the role of several key pathways in breast cancer, including pathways that are responsible for breast cancer cell growth, division, and metastasis. His early work focused on the TGF-β (transforming growth factor beta) network in cells taking on metastatic properties. Dr. Arteaga was the first to demonstrate their role in breast cancer initiation and metastasis. His seminal findings laid the groundwork for targeting TGF-β with cancer drugs, an area that is currently under active clinical investigation.
Some of his work helped provide the rationale for using trastuzumab in combination with chemotherapy for more effective treatment of HER2+ breast cancer. This research also contributed to the foundation for subsequent use of trastuzumab combined with gefitinib to treat HER2+ breast cancer. More recently his team is exploring the mechanisms of drug resistance in breast cancer particularly to EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor) and HER2 inhibitors, and the discovery of biomarkers of drug action and resistance to antiestrogen therapy.
Dr. Arteaga currently holds the Donna S. Hall Chair in Breast Cancer Research at Vanderbilt University and serves as Professor of Medicine and Cancer Biology in the Department of Medicine and Associate Director for Clinical Research at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC). Dr. Arteaga is also Director of the Breast Cancer Program of the NCI-designated VICC. He received his medical degree in 1980 at the University of Guayaquil in Ecuador. He trained in Internal Medicine at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., then completed a fellowship in Medical Oncology at the UT Health Sciences Center in San Antonio, Texas.
Throughout his career as a physician-scientist, many of Dr. Arteaga’s mechanistic research studies have translated from the bench to the bedside and have impacted the current and future approaches to breast cancer treatment.
About Susan G. Komen for the Cure®
Founded in 1982 on a promise between two sisters, Susan G. Komen for the Cure works to end breast cancer by leading research, community health, advocacy and global outreach. Komen’s $685 million research investment has helped drive down breast cancer mortality rates by 31 percent since 1991 and helped improve five-year survivability for early stage cancers from 74 percent to 98 percent over 30 years. Komen and its Affiliates’ cumulative $1.3 billion community health investment has provided screening, education, and social and financial support to millions of women, while Komen’s grassroots advocates have preserved cancer care access and federal research funding. In more than 50 countries, Komen partnerships bring cancer education and advocacy to the world’s women, with a focus on low-resource and developing nations. For information, see www.komen.org or call 1-877-GO-KOMEN.