Innovative tech used in research leads to breakthrough in understanding breast cancer

Published 7:01 am Sunday, September 27, 2020

Dr. Robert Clarke of The Hormel Institute publishes research in top journal Nature Communications


Dr. Robert Clarke, executive director of The Hormel Institute  University of Minnesota, is one of five cancer researchers who collaborated to publish discoveries  derived from using innovative “radiogenomics” in the top journal Nature Communications. 

Clarke along with Drs. Ming Fan, Pingping Xia, Yue Wang and Lihua Li collaborated in the research  article “Radiogenomic signatures reveal multiscale intratumor heterogeneity associated with biological  functions and survival in breast cancer.”  

The article describes the importance of studying different, distinguishable parts or features of breast  tumors. The research group used the fast-evolving technology of radiogenomics, an innovative approach  that uses imaging technology linked to the genetic profiles of tumors, to provide a non-invasive means  to predict a breast cancer patient’s future outcome. 

Their research helped identify specific imaging features or “signatures” and led to discoveries in prediction  of tumor genomic alterations and that biological functions in tumors drove breast cancer patient outcomes. This method of precision medicine provides greater knowledge of the tumor genetic profile and is significant because it can help open the door to new therapies for how oncologists treat cancer  patients. Normally insight into the tumor genome requires a biopsy- an invasive procedure, whereas  radiogenomics is non-invasive. 

“This study using radiogenomics is exciting because data such as this can provide potentially lifesaving  information in predicting outcomes and directing treatments for breast cancer patients,” Clarke said.

“Understanding the landscape of a tumor and its composition can enable a more directed intervention  for individual patients and could lead to the development of new therapies, all with the ultimate goal in  mind which is to extend a patient’s life.” 

The authors would like to thank the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Natural Science  Foundation of Zhejiang Province of China, the US Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research  Program and the US National Institutes of Health for funding this study. Clarke would like to give  special acknowledgement to The Hormel Foundation for its generous support to The Hormel Institute,  University of Minnesota. 

Earlier in this week it was announced that Clarke joined Drs. Rakesh Kumar and Simak Ali to guest edit the September special issue in Cancer and Metastasis Reviews on “Coordinated Regulation of  Dysregulated Pathways in Human Cancer – Beyond One-gene Approach.” 

The issue highlights  work on metastasis from a series of leading scientists in the field. 

Clarke also contributed his own research article on a cancer systems biology approach to  studying cancer metastasis, “A systems biology approach to discovering pathway signaling  dysregulation in metastasis.” Cancer systems biology aims to understand cancer as an  integrated system of genes, networks, and interactions rather than isolated molecular and  cellular components. 

The print version will be published this month and all articles are published on-line with free  access through Nov. 17.