University of Pennsylvania Health System

Focus on Cancer

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Pub, A Drug, and A Basser Global Prize Winner

“I met a bloke in a pub and he offered me some drugs,” explains Alan Ashworth, FRS in his keynote address at the Basser Research Center for BRCA’s second annual symposium, where Ashworth received the Basser Global Prize for his contributions to BRCA-related research.

It turns out the bloke was a DNA-repair researcher and the drug was Olaparib. Olaparbib is a PARP inhibitor, part of a class of experimental medications that have been developed to target the genetic defect present in cancers associated with heritable BRCA mutations. Penn Medicine’s Basser Research Center for BRCA focuses exclusively on BRCA1 and BRCA2, and PARP inhibitors were a hot topic at this year’s symposium, which over 200 healthcare providers and scientists attended.

Ashworth Accepts the Basser Global Prize

In his acceptance speech for the Basser Global Prize, Ashworth described the history of the field, sketching out how the BRCA genes were cloned and detailing how an evolving understanding of basic biology led to the development of so-called targeted therapies that exploit the inherent deficiencies of BRCA-related cancers.

As he spoke about the BRCA genes and proteins, Ashworth pointed key parts of the protein apparent in the actual Basser Global Prize trophy, which features a blown-up version of part of BRCA2, etched into a large crystal block atop a purple LED light that made the prize glow as Shari and Len Potter presented it to him.

Symposium and Basic Science Research Bring Hope for the Future

In addition to targeted therapies for BRCA-related cancers, the symposium shed light on the basic science research that is so crucial to developing new targets for early detection and therapy, as well as clinical issues of tumor sequencing, breast cancer screening, and breast reconstruction.

With hope for approval of PARP therapy, increasingly accessible sequencing technologies, and the landmark founding of the Basser Research Center for BRCA, the conference had a hopeful air, with Ashworth commenting that “the Basser Center is a fantastic new initiative…I believe there is going to be great discoveries made here, along with colleagues around the world, [resulting in] huge contributions to BRCA1 and BRCA2 research…”

For more, see the photo album on Facebook or watch below Basser Global Prize Winner Alan Ashworth, Basser Director of Genetics Kate Nathanson, and Basser Director of Basic Science Roger Greenberg recap key themes from the Basser Center’s Second Annual Symposium on Breast and Ovarian Cancer Genetics.


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