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2012  Ellen Moskowitz and Suzanne Hebert Leadership Grant Award: Dr. Patricia Steeg

For more than 20 years, in her laboratory at the National Cancer Institute, in Bethesda, Maryland, Dr. Patricia Steeg has been researching how cancer cells from the primary tumor in the breast travel to vital organs, in particular the brain. Dr. Steeg identified the first cancer suppressor gene and has done pioneering work on brain metastasis. Although metastatic research is difficult and involves long and complex experiments, Dr. Steeg remains undeterred. She exerts strong leadership in the research community nationally and internationally.

shirleymertzpatsteegThe award—which includes a monetary grant to be used for metastatic research—is named after MBCN’s former President, Ellen Moskowitz, and former Vice-President, Suzanne Hebert. Ellen and Suzanne worked side by side for five years to establish MBCN as the voice of people living with metastatic breast cancer, Together, they pushed for change and inspired many to take action to promote awareness and provide education for metastatic breast cancer patients and professionals alike.

Prior to accepting the award at MBCN’s 2012 conference in Chicago, Dr. Steeg gave a presentation on “Research on Treatment to Contain Metastatic Growth.” The researcher made a case for redesigning clinical trials to do what she termed “phase II randomized metastasis-prevention trials.” Currently, phase I and phase II clinical trials are done in patients with advanced, refractory metastatic cancer, patients who have had many therapies. In phase II trials, researchers typically are trying to determine if a drug shrinks metastases.

“But a drug that prevents metastasis may not shrink a large, refractory tumor,” said Steeg. “It has a different mechanism of action that is not picked up by the clinical trial system.”