Researchers at Hackensack University Medical Center and Discovery and Innovation Center Receive Significant Funding for Innovative Microbiome Research and Breast Cancer Outcomes – Network News, Press Releases

22 October 2021

Researchers at Hackensack University Medical Center received a third grant of $ 190,000 from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) to fund research exploring the link between the microbiome and the response to breast cancer treatment, including efficacy treatment and side effects. This avenue of study could potentially lead to new ways to improve the ability of anticancer drugs to stop the growth of breast cancer as well as to improve the quality of life of patients by reducing unwanted side effects.

The microbiome consists of healthy bacteria as well as viruses and fungi that live in our bodies, especially in the intestines.

“We have a huge amount of bacteria in our intestinal tract that live and die, using our nutrients to survive and make biological byproducts,” explained Leslie Montgomery, MD, chief of breast surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center, who co-directs the investigations with Rena Feinman, PhD, associate member of the Center for Discovery and Innovation at Hackensack Meridian Health.

“There is enough DNA in the microbiome to call it our ‘second genome’. We are only just beginning to understand the power of all of these organisms to produce metabolites and byproducts that can potentially affect our bodies when absorbed.

“The gut microbiome is a very important player and acts as an organ on its own,” added Dr. Feinman. “Recent studies have also shown that tumors also have a unique microbiome such as bacteria. We now have next-generation and cutting-edge sequencing technologies that allow us to profile the microbiomes of a patient’s intestinal and breast tumors.

The project, called Effects of the intestinal and intratumoral microbiome on immunosurveillance induced by neoadjuvant chemotherapy in triple negative breast cancer, analyzes the influence of a patient’s microbiome on the effectiveness of neoadjuvant chemotherapy in women with triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) before their surgery. TNBC is an aggressive form of breast cancer that lacks receptors for estrogen and progesterone as well as the HER2 protein, making patients with this type of breast cancer ineligible for treatments designed to target these proteins.

Through a clinical trial conducted at John Theurer Cancer Center, Hackensack University Medical Center and recently opened at Yale Cancer Center and Georgetown University Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, women newly diagnosed with TNBC are providing blood and stool samples for testing before their chemotherapy, during their chemotherapy and again just before surgery. Tumor tissue obtained during diagnosis and during surgery will be analyzed. Patients will also complete questionnaires about the side effects of chemotherapy, such as diarrhea and nausea. The gut and tumor microbiome profiles of patients will be correlated with their response to treatment and the incidence of side effects.

“Our current work suggests that there are differences in the composition of the gut microbiome in breast cancer patients before treatment, which may be predictive of the outcome. We also validated the presence of tumor bacteria in the biopsies, ”said Dr. Feinman. “It is important to note that we are studying how beneficial bacteria invigorate the anti-tumor immune response. “

“We haven’t yet harnessed the energy or information about the microbiome to find out how it can hurt or help us. If we can identify a certain microbiome population that makes gastrointestinal side effects less severe or improves response to chemotherapy, perhaps we can give patients a specific probiotic to alleviate these symptoms and / or make treatment longer. effective, ”hypothesized Dr. Montgomery. . “The ultimate goal would be to assess the potency of probiotics in a randomized clinical trial to determine their optimal use to improve treatment outcomes.”

“This work shows how clinicians and laboratory scientists work together in our healthcare network for the benefit of patients,” said Ihor Sawczuk, MD, FACS, director of research and president of Hackensack Meridian’s northern region. Health. “We aim to push the boundaries and follow where the data takes us. ”

For more information about enrolling in the clinical trial, please call 551-996-4381.


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