Using genetic clues to solve breast and ovarian cancer

Andrew NelsonAndrew Nelson, M.D., Ph.D., Masonic Scholar and laboratory medicine and pathology faculty member, is dedicated to understanding the biological factors that drive breast and ovarian cancers and, ultimately, to finding the most effective individualized treatments for these diseases.

Using extensive genomic analyses of U patients, Nelson is currently leading two studies that could have big results for people with these cancers.

In one study, Nelson and his team recently zeroed in on a culprit gene, called RHAMM, which appears to have increased activity in both early and more aggressive forms of breast cancer. They believe that RHAMM is an important biomarker that will enable clinicians to better understand how much one’s cancer has advanced and, ultimately, create more targeted ways to stop its progression. Recently, Nelson’s team received a grant from the American Cancer Society to expand this research, a milestone that would not have been possible without Masonic seed support.

Nelson is also co-leading a University-wide “Grand Challenges” study that will look at the causes of therapy resistance in ovarian cancer and, ultimately, validate methods for predicting the optimal therapy regimen for each patient with this disease. His team has generated and studied genomic data for 30 patients so far and will continue to enroll participants to unravel the complexities of this aggressive cancer.

If successful, both studies will help inform future clinical trials on new and tailored cancer treatments that could extend and improve the quality of life for countless individuals.

“The physician-scientist role is crucial to our nation’s effort to improve human health, but this role is challenging as we split our time and energy between research and clinical activities. Support from the Masons provides a necessary launch pad for myself and others like me to move our research programs forward in the early stages of our careers when external funding is difficult to procure.”


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