Perou honored by AACR as Outstanding Investigator for Breast Cancer Research

December 08, 2009
Calling his work “one of the most important findings in breast cancer and health disparities in the last decade,” the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) has selected Charles M. Perou, PhD, for the 2009 Outstanding Investigator Award for Breast Cancer Research, a prize funded by Susan G. Komen for the Cure®.

Perou, associate professor of genetics, pathology and laboratory medicine and member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, will present an invited lecture, Therapeutic Implications of the Molecular Portraits of Breast Cancer, Dec. 10 at the 32nd annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

Perou’s interdisciplinary research, based in biology, genetics, bioinformatics, epidemiology and the clinical treatment of breast cancer, sets the stage to redefine breast cancer into multiple subtypes of disease. His findings cause the entire field to reevaluate preconceived notions about the causes of and treatment for breast cancers.

Perou and colleagues have demonstrated that breast tumors can be classified into five molecular subtypes. His lab focuses particular attention on the basal-like tumor subtype, which has a poor prognosis when given standard therapy. Perou also studies the mechanisms that give rise to each tumor subtype and why some subtypes respond to chemotherapy although others do not. He uses animal models and human clinical trials samples to develop new therapies targeted to each of the different subtypes.

Dr. Robert Millikan

Dr. Robert Millikan

With UNC Lineberger members Robert Millikan, DVM, MPH, PhD, the Barbara Sorenson Hulka Distinguished Professor of Epidemiology in UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, and Lisa Carey, MD, associate professor of hematology/oncology and director of the UNC Breast Center, Perou has translated these molecular subtypes to the wider patient population. Using a North Carolina-based study of a population-representative breast cancer patient set, this team found that premenopausal African-American women are diagnosed with one particular subtype, the basal-like tumor, twice as often as their Caucasian counterparts – providing significant insight into racial disparities that have long been known to exist in breast cancer mortality. Ongoing work is demonstrating that each breast cancer subtype has distinct risk factors.

In presenting the award, AACR notes that Perou’s laboratory discoveries are being incorporated into clinical practice – the treatment of patients – worldwide. The organization also cites his international leadership in bioinformatics analysis of gene expression data and notes that these techniques will help researchers better compare animal models of cancer with those in humans, potentially speeding up preclinical trials of new therapeutic agents.

The award recognizes an investigator “whose novel and significant work has had or may have a far-reaching impact on the etiology, detection, diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of breast cancer,” according to the AACR website.

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More information can be found at http://aacr.org.

UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: Ramona DuBose, director of communications, (919) 966-7467 or ramona_dubose@unc.edu.