April 10, 2015 – NEW YORK — The Metastatic Breast Cancer Network (MBCN) announced the 2015 recipients of its Metastatic Breast Cancer Research Leadership Awards: Dr. Andrew Ewald, associate professor in the Departments of Cell Biology and Oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Dr. Matthew Ellis, the director of the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center at Baylor College of Medicine.
The Metastatic Breast Cancer Network (MBCN), an all-volunteer, patient-led organization, has long advocated for more focused metastatic breast cancer research that improves outcomes in the clinic for patients with metastatic breast cancer, an incurable disease that ends the lives of 108 people every day of the year.
“In 2014, MBCN made a commitment that all memorial contributions made to MBCN would go to funding metastatic research,” said Shirley Mertz, President. “We are pleased to present leadership awards of $50,000 each to two individuals whose work contributes significantly to understanding basic knowledge about the process of metastasis and to improving how patients are treated.”
Mertz, living with metastatic breast cancer since 2003, noted that although metastatic breast cancer is responsible for virtually every breast cancer death, it receives only a tiny percentage of the billions dedicated to breast cancer research. “MBCN is a founding member of The Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance,” Mertz said. “The Alliance’s Metastatic Breast Cancer Landscape Analysis released in October 2014 found that metastatic focused research made up only 7% of the $15 billion invested in breast cancer research from 2000 to 2013 by the major governmental and nonprofit funders from North America and the United Kingdom. Breast cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer death for women in the US, and it is the leading cause of cancer death for women globally. We know research holds the key to changing those statistics—we are proud to support the work of Drs. Ewald and Ellis.”
Improving Knowledge About Metastasis: Dr. Andrew Ewald, Assistant Professor in the Departments of Cell Biology and Oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Dr. Ewald is an interdisciplinary cell and cancer biologist. His laboratory, made up of basic science and medical trainees working in collaboration with engineers and clinicians, pioneered the development and use of 3D culture techniques to capture and analyze in real-time the growth and invasion of breast cancer tumor cells. This work is providing deeper insights into the biology of metastasis. Dr. Ewald’s work is complex, and yet he is able to explain his work in a way that patients can understand, as this video demonstrates (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gezIo3p2dl8).
Watch Dr. Ewald’s amazingly easy-to-understand explanation of metastasis and his work.
“Breast cancer patients of all stages are shocked to learn that after 30 years of breast cancer research, scientists cannot fully explain how and why breast cancer cells leave the breast and travel to distant organs, particularly many years after successful treatment for early stage disease,” said Mertz. “Unfortunately, this happens to about 30% percent of early-stage patients—and we don’t know why. How can we optimally treat the disease if we do not understand the processes that caused its spread?”Dr. Ewald believes research that seeks to understand and describe how cancer cells learn to make connections to other nearby cells, travel through local tissues and the blood stream, and then establish themselves as a new tumor in the bone, lung, liver or brain will lead to new strategies and treatments to control or eliminate cancer cells from accomplishing these steps to metastatic spread and ultimately improve outcomes for individuals with metastatic breast cancer.“We applaud Dr. Ewald on his important and challenging work in cell and cancer biology,” Mertz said. “MBCN and its members will continue to follow future developments in his research.”
Dr. Matthew Ellis is both an oncologist and scientist who has championed the cause of metastatic breast cancer patients for well over a decade. Currently, Dr. Ellis is the director of the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center at Baylor College of Medicine. He was recruited from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis where from 2010 to 2014 he was a professor of medicine and head of the section of breast oncology. He had also served as a faculty member there since 2003.While at Washington University Dr. Ellis gathered a large resource of patient derived xenografts (tumors taken directly from the patient and studied in animals) and these became excellent resources for testing new therapies and understanding treatment resistance.
His work to develop these models focused on estrogen receptor positive breast cancer and these patient derived xenografts will now complement similar efforts underway by Baylor Smith Breast Center researchers with estrogen receptor negative breast cancer.
Dr. Ellis, a pioneer in breast cancer genomics, has been instrumental in developing a Genome Atlas and Therapeutic Road Map for estrogen receptor positive breast cancer. Most recently he has found that metastatic breast tumors initially positive for the estrogen receptor frequently harbor mutations and translocations in the receptor that render the tumor resistant to endocrine therapies used to block estrogen. Several laboratories are now trying to develop new drugs that will block these mutant receptors.
“MBCN acknowledges Dr. Ellis’s leadership in identifying groundbreaking new information about mutations in breast cancer and their clinical relevance. His work in this area has the potential to bring precision medicine to metastatic breast cancer patients and, hopefully, with it, longer survival. (Hear Dr. Ellis discuss his work here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCCPhAHbgpI).)
Having decoded breast cancer genomes we must now annotate this massive amount of data, says Dr. Ellis.
“The Metastatic Breast Cancer Network acknowledges and thanks the individuals, organizations and private companies whose donations to MBCN on behalf of or in memory of loved ones and friends with metastatic breast cancer made these research leadership awards possible,” Mertz said. “We are confident the awards will advance the work of Dr. Ewald and Dr. Ellis.”
ABOUT THE METASTATIC BREAST CANCER NETWORK
The Metastatic Breast Cancer Network, a national, not-for-profit organization, was founded in 2004 to raise awareness about the kind of breast cancer that is rarely discussed in the breast cancer support groups or the media—metastatic breast cancer. Unlike early stage breast cancer, in which cancer cells are confined to the breast, in metastatic breast cancer, cancer cells have traveled from the breast to other sites in the body. Patients with metastatic disease are in constant treatment and must deal with the harsh reality that their disease is chronic, progressive and ultimately fatal. Led by patient advocates, MBCN has worked to offer education and information to patients and their caregivers through its website (mbcn.org); targeted brochures developed for the public and those newly diagnosed; and an annual conference for metastatic patients at major comprehensive cancer centers.