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Edith A. Perez, M.D., is the Deputy Director at Large for Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Group Vice Chair of the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology, and the Serene M. and Frances C. Durling Professor of Medicine at Mayo Medical School. She is also Chair of the Mayo Clinic Breast Cancer Translational Genomics Program started in 2009 and Chair of the Breast Cancer Specialty Council formed in 2012. She is a cancer specialist and an internationally known translational researcher at Mayo Clinic. Her roles extend nationally, including positions within Mayo Clinic, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), and the National Cancer Institute.
Dr. Perez has developed, and is involved in, a wide range of clinical trials exploring the use of new therapeutic agents for the treatment and prevention of breast cancer. She leads and has helped develop basic research studies to evaluate the role of genetic markers in the development and aggressiveness of breast cancer. She has authored more than 700 research articles in journals, books, and abstracts. Dr. Perez is invited frequently to lecture at national and international meetings and serves on the editorial boards of multiple academic journals.
A select list of awards Dr. Perez has received includes: Breast Cancer Research Foundation Research Grant Award (1998-2013); Horizon Achievement Award in Cancer Research (2002); Mayo Clinic Outstanding Faculty Award (2002 & 2004); North Florida Hispanic of the Year Award (2003); Mayo Clinic Distinguished Educator Award (2003); Serene M. and Frances C. Durling Professorship of Medicine (2006); Honorary Doctorate of Letters, University of North Florida (2006); Mayo Clinic Distinguished Investigator (2007); Florida State Biomedical Research Advisory Council (BRAC) (2009-2014); Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society (2009); Mayo Clinic Outstanding Course Director (2009); EVE Award for Lifetime Achievement (2011); NFL Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award (2011); one of the 75 Most Influential People in Jacksonville Healthcare from Jacksonville Magazine’s 904 (2012); The Girls Inc. Woman of Vision Award (2013); Jacksonville University Woman of the Year (2013); the Susan G. Komen® Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Clinical Research (2013); the Claude Jacquillat Award (2014); OncLive’s Giants of Cancer Care Award (2014); and she has recently been elected to the Board of Directors of the AACR (2015).
The development of drugs that target the HER2 protein has led to very significant improvement in the outcome of patients who are diagnosed with these HER2-positive tumors, with 5 year disease free survival of 75-80% in patients with early stage disease after treatment with trastuzumab. Our goal is to understand why some patients respond well to trastuzumab (or not) and to develop new therapeutic strategies that can be used if trastuzumab fails. A second project uses gene expression data to predict how patients will respond to trastuzumab therapy. We have begun to carry out validation of a gene expression signature that identifies patients who are unlikely to benefit from trastuzumab, using a different technology platform. This critical validation step involves the development of a new analytical platform (Nanostring nCounter) that enables us to accurately measure gene expression in formalin fixed paraffin embedded (FFPE) samples. Gene expression from archival material on this platform correlate well with material from matched fresh-frozen tumor samples and with next generation sequencing platforms. Using this approach, we have been able to segregate patients with HER2+ breast cancer into two groups: one group is highly enriched for a specific group of immune-function genes; the second group has low level of these genes. Using data from the N9831 HER2+ adjuvant trial, we have shown that the patients whose tumors have low level gene expression are unlikely to benefit from the standard HER2 therapy. This genomic signature therefore identifies the patients who need to be enrolled in clinical trials to test the efficacy of newly emerging HER2-targeted therapy. We are working to solidify our results by requesting tumor specimens from other investigators to determine whether our predictive gene model also predicts outcome in their patients and also planning to test our immune gene profile in patients with triple negative breast cancer. A third project is to assess the prognostic value of tumor infiltrating lymphocytes and integrate this measure with our existing genomic signature and other measures of immune response. Other projects relate to novel translational studies to prevent cancer recurrence and improve patient outcome in the setting of advanced breast cancer (mainly HER2-positive or triple negative).
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