USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center

USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center Announces New Breast Cancer Survivorship Program

October 19, 2021

There are currently more than 3.8 million breast cancer survivors living in the U.S., yet three out of 10 women with invasive breast cancer will develop metastasis in their lifetime, meaning cancer that has spread to other organs. This is a source of worry for both patients and families.  However, breast cancers that are not fully cured after treatment are often too small to be detected by mammograms or ultrasounds but pose a significant risk. 

To address this challenge, the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center at Keck Medicine of USC is launching a major new initiative – The Eileen McGeever Breast Cancer Survivorship Program.  Led, by USC Norris scientists and clinicians, Drs. Bodour Salhia, Irene Kang, and Caryn Lerman, this exciting new program is developing a novel blood test to detect the presence of micro-metastatic residual breast cancer at the end of therapy and develop a recurrence risk classifier that also incorporates additional clinical, environmental, and lifestyle risk factors.

“Approximately 90% of breast cancer deaths are due to metastasis,” says Dr. Caryn Lerman, director of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, associate dean for cancer programs, and the H. Leslie and Elaine S. Hoffman Chair in Cancer Research at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “The Multi-Ethnic Breast Cancer Survivorship Program at USC Norris will develop the vital tools and resources needed to detect residual disease before it spreads to other organs when the cancer may be more treatable, giving the patients a better chance at survival.”

Integrating research and survivorship care, this multi-ethnic Breast Cancer Survivorship Program will further the development of a potential liquid biopsy – a blood-based test for detecting circulating tumor DNA – that could spur cancer’s recurrence and spread. Using next generation sequencing and artificial intelligence, the research team will validate this novel blood test in a cohort of 1,000 women.  With the assistance of the USC Norris Population Research Core and the USC Norris Data Science Core, the multi-ethnic Breast Cancer Survivorship Program will leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning approaches to incorporate environmental exposures, neighborhood data, and social determinants of health. This recurrence risk classifier will be utilized to develop an AI-based tool for determining a breast cancer survivor’s risk of recurrence.

Women who participate in this program will also receive educational resources, supportive care, and surveillance to detect the possible return of cancer earlier, when it may be more treatable.

For more information about this exciting program, please join us for the virtual launch on November 9th at 6 PM PST. To register for the event, please go to https://bit.ly/2YOPnbo. 

About USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center

At the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, more than 250 dedicated physicians and scientists are leading the fight to make cancer a disease of the past. As one of the eight original National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the United States, USC Norris has revolutionized cancer research, treatment, and prevention for nearly 50 years. Multidisciplinary teams provide the latest evidence-based care at USC Norris Cancer Hospital, a 60-bed hospital, as well as outpatient clinics throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties. This year USC Norris successfully renewed its NCI comprehensiveness designation with an exceptional rating from the NCI.

To donate to this program, please contact Minhaal Nathani, Senior Director of Development, at Minhaal.Nathani@med.usc.edu for more information.