Dr. Hoadley, can you tell us a bit about what led you to do breast cancer research?
When I started my breast cancer research 16 years ago, I did not have a personal connection to the disease. However, over the years, I have come to work closely with patient advocates and the breast cancer survivor community through my volunteer efforts with Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. My interaction with breast cancer survivors has had a positive impact on my research in several ways. Hearing their stories has been a strong motivational factor for my daily research activities and has helped me improve my ability to share my genomics research with the public.
On The Route
Since we’ve got some time, could you tell us a bit about your current research?
My work is focused on breast cancer classification and better understanding the molecular events that define different subsets of the disease or what we call molecular subtypes. One subtype called basal-like is an aggressive form of cancer that is enriched with triple negative breast cancers, cancers that are negative for estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor and lack amplification of HER2. Comparing breast cancers with other cancer types from the Cancer Genome Atlas, I found the basal-like subtype was distinct from other breast cancers. This, along with different risk profiles, mutations, and cancer progression suggests they represent a unique subset of breast cancers. My current research is further classifying this aggressive breast cancer type and analyzing clinical trial data to determine if we can predict response to therapy.
Now that we’ve made it “home” for the night and are enjoying the support of our crew, can you tell us about how your work would be affected without Komen funding?
This grant has allowed me to set up some of my own independent research on breast cancer. I also work closely with other Komen-funded researchers at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill using the Komen-funded Carolina Breast Cancer Study to investigate racial differences in the PAM50 molecular subtyping.
What would you say to somebody who’s just been diagnosed with breast cancer?
I am not a clinician and do not feel qualified to give advice to breast cancer patients. However, I think it is important that patients know they can have an important impact on research. They can help shape the focus of research and guide us to fit the needs of the breast cancer community.
Look at all of these enthusiastic supporters out along the route! Tell us about how you are involved with Komen outside of the lab.
I have been volunteering at the Raleigh, North Carolina Komen Race for the Cure for the last 14 years. I started with day of event volunteering and later increased my involvement by becoming the co-chair of the Survivor’s Committee and have been highly involved in the race planning committee for the last seven years. I help oversee the Survivors’ Tent, Survivors’ Tribute and Celebration, and the Survivor Awards. I have come to know so many of the female and male breast cancer survivors in my area and have enjoyed seeing them return each year and offer support to survivors who attend their first race. I also attend the Komen North Carolina Triangle to the Coast Research Luncheon and Young Researchers Round Table Breakfasts that bring together researchers in the community.
The finish line is in sight! In working with patient advocates, how have they impacted your research from a patient perspective?
I have been fortunate to interact with patient advocates through both my own grant work and in participation at grant study sections. They helped me gain a better understanding of the full picture of cancer treatment and effects on the person, their family, and the community. I have seen the impact advocates have had in making patient-reported outcomes move toward reality and how that has translated into better overall care for the patient.
As a researcher working with genomic and clinical data, data sharing and availability has always been an important issue. While advancements were made during the microarray era for making data available, we have now moved into sequencing, which brings up additional privacy and safety concerns. However, most patient advocates and survivors I have talked to want the information about their cancers shared. By involving patient advocates, we can ensure that we share data in a manner that is protective of patient privacy yet continues to support future research.
Thanks for walking us through your research, Dr. Hoadley! Any final thoughts you’d like to share with our walkers, crew and supporters?
Part of my research is analyzing molecular data from a recent clinical trial. While the analysis is early, we hope we will be able to evaluate and determine predictors of who will respond to chemotherapy so we can help improve future clinical trials and treatment choices.
Dr. Katherine Hoadley is an Assistant Professor in Cancer Genetics at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and has been a Career Catalyst Research grantee since 2016. Since 1982, Susan G. Komen has funded $956 million in breast cancer research, second only to the U.S. government and more than any other nonprofit in the world. Learn more here.
Three things to know about Dr. Hoadley:
- My dad is a scientist and was in graduate school when I was born. He encouraged my love of science by taking me to the lab throughout my childhood.
- I grew up in West Virginia; the mountains always will draw me more than an ocean.
- I ran track in high school and college and I still hold my high school’s high jump record.
Grab and Go
Here are three ways you can use this information to help reach your 3-Day fundraising or recruiting goals:
- Breast cancer is not a singular disease. There are many types that affect people in a wide range of ways. Komen-funded research into all forms of breast cancer can lead to new treatments and informative work towards a cure.
- You make a difference! Patients can have an important impact on research, by helping shape its focus, and guiding researchers like Dr. Hoadley find ways to fit the needs of all members of the breast cancer community.
- Money raised stays in the local communities. Dr. Hoadley, for example, has been volunteering at Komen events in Raleigh, North Carolina for 14 years. Now, she is also collaborating with other researchers at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill thanks to a Komen grant.
Take an On-Route Look at @SusanGKomen’s Research in our latest “Sidewalks to Science” chat with Komen-grantee Dr. Katherine Hoadley. She is researching new forms of #breastcancer in search of a cure! (link) #The3Day
Sample Facebook Post:
Take an On-Route Look at @SusanGKomen’s Research in our latest “Sidewalks to Science” chat with Dr. Katherine Hoadley! She, and other researchers and scientific advocates, are making great strides in cancer research, especially in the research of new forms of breast cancer to help find a cure! (link) #The3Day