Washington, DC—Now that screening for genes that predispose a woman to breast cancer is routinely available, women at an increased risk are looking for ways to keep themselves healthy. Insoo Bae, PhD, a junior faculty member of the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University Medical Center received a $2 million research award from Susan G. Komen for the Cure to do just that. Bae, an assistant professor of oncology, has developed a new methodology for studying the interaction between environmental carcinogens and genetic risk for breast cancer, a project aimed at developing novel prevention strategies for women who are genetically predisposed to breast cancer.
The age-old question of nature versus nurture in the field of psychology also applies in oncology: is a cancer caused by an inherited genetic predisposition or by exposure to environmental carcinogens? Bae’s clear response to the question is “both.”
Instead of separating out the differences between the two, he is worried about the dangerous combination of both factors together. Specifically, Bae wants to find out what combinations of genetic predisposition and carcinogen exposure are most likely to cause cancer. To do this, Bae developed a new technique for studying the environment-gene interaction .
Komen awarded its grant to Bae so he can test this methodology for the BRCA1 mutation, one of the few inherited mutations known to predispose women to breast cancer. Bae will examine a range of environmental carcinogens – such as cigarette smoke, alcohol, and dietary factors – to identify those agents that increase the probability that BRCA1 defective cells will become cancerous.
The impact of this research is far-reaching. With more knowledge about environment-gene interactions, physicians will be able to make personalized recommendations for women with BRCA1 mutations, and basic scientists will be able to identify new molecular mechanisms that contribute to breast carcinogenesis. Bae also plans to develop preventive agents that will protect women against cellular damage.
About Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center
The Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of Georgetown University Medical Center and Georgetown University Hospital, seeks to improve the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cancer through innovative basic and clinical research, patient care, community education and outreach, and the training of cancer specialists of the future. Lombardi is one of only 39 comprehensive cancer centers in the nation, as designated by the National Cancer Institute, and the only one in the Washington, DC, area. For more information, go to http://lombardi.georgetown.edu.
About Georgetown University Medical Center
Georgetown University Medical Center is an internationally recognized academic medical center with a three-part mission of research, teaching and patient care (through our partnership with MedStar Health). Our mission is carried out with a strong emphasis on public service and a dedication to the Catholic, Jesuit principle of cura personalis -- or "care of the whole person." The Medical Center includes the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing and Health Studies, both nationally ranked, the world-renowned Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Biomedical Graduate Research Organization (BGRO).