Laura Spring, MD
Massachusetts General Hospital
Localized breast cancer patients with higher risk disease are often treated with chemotherapy in the neoadjuvant (before surgery) setting. However, it is difficult to predict how breast cancer will respond to treatment given in the neoadjuvant setting and we currently lack any specific blood tests to help answer this question. As a Terri Brodeur grant recipient, I plan to study a method to detect genetic material (DNA) known as circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) that is released into the blood from some breast cancer tumor cells.
One of the main goals of the study is to determine what percentage of breast cancer patients who are receiving treatment before surgery will have ctDNA detectable, as this may represent a group of patients at higher risk for recurrence. For patients with ctDNA present, we will compare the amount before treatment starts and after the first round of treatment. We believe that those with decreasing ctDNA levels will respond to treatment better with improved outcomes at the time of surgery, and ultimately have reduced risk of disease recurrence. Studies in the advanced breast cancer setting suggest that the amount and type of ctDNA in the blood can help determine the status of the tumor itself and the way it is responding to treatment. If change in ctDNA is validated as an early marker of response to different types of therapies in the preoperative setting, this could greatly improve the treatment of breast cancer by allowing more individualized treatment approaches and reducing exposure to unnecessary treatments.
Dr. Spring completed her undergraduate studies at Tufts University and obtained her medical degree for the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She completed residency training in internal medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA. Following residency she completed fellowship in medical oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Spring is currently an attending physician in breast medical oncology at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. The primary focus of her research is to develop novel therapeutic and biomarker strategies to improve the care of breast cancer patients.