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  • Breast Cancer Treatment Center

    Inflammatory Breast Cancer Program

    A Conversation with Beth Overmoyer, MD

    Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Care

    In 2011, the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation awarded a $50,000 grant to Dr. Beth Overmoyer. This interview originally appeared in the October 2011 issue of Focus on IBC, the newsletter from the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation. 

    Beth Overmoyer, MDBeth Overmoyer, MD 
    Can you give me a little of your background and training?

    I was born in Pittsburgh, PA and went to college and medical school at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH. I completed my training in Internal Medicine and fellowship in Hematology/Oncology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. I then returned to Cleveland to run the Breast Cancer Program at the Cleveland Clinic for a brief time, but spent the majority of my time in Cleveland as Director of Breast Cancer Research at the University Hospitals, which is affiliated with the Medical School. I joined US Oncology for a brief time before joining the Breast Oncology Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. I have been the director of the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Program here since October 2009.

    Can you tell us what influenced your decision to become an oncologist?

    I have been interested in hematology since undergraduate school, and wrote my thesis on iron storage in humans. There was no question that I would go into Hematology/Oncology as a specialty. During my fellowship, I was the primary fellow for the director of the Cancer Center at PENN who specialized in breast cancer.

    Breast cancer was an immediate fit for me, and I went on to complete a fourth year of fellowship specifically focusing on breast cancer treatment. As an oncologist, every day you do something good for someone, from helping them deal with their advanced disease to treating their curable cancer and allowing them to continue on with life.

    Do you treat only breast cancer?

    I do now, but haven't in the past. Being a board-certified hematologist/oncologist, I have treated acute leukemia, performed bone marrow transplants, and treated all solid tumors from lung cancer to colon cancer. My focus has always been breast cancer, however, so my outpatient practice has always been devoted to breast cancer. At Dana-Farber, I also participate in the Genetic Risk and Prevention Center, seeing patients at high risk for developing breast cancer and offering them screening and prevention strategies.

    Can you tell us about the development of the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Clinic at Dana-Farber?

    The focus of the inflammatory breast cancer program is to provide patients with the optimal treatment of their disease, and to incorporate both a clinical and basic science research program to advance the understanding and treatment of inflammatory breast cancer in general.

    The governing team includes a breast surgeon, radiation oncologist, pathologist, radiologist and basic scientist, who meet monthly to discuss the progress of the program and the development of the research focus.

    Patients who contact us are seen by all three treating disciplines (medical oncology, radiation oncology and surgery) within 72 hours, and we will coordinate the appropriate studies if not performed elsewhere. Patients are also offered the opportunity to undergo to a baseline breast biopsy for tissue banking and participate in a registry.

    We are focusing on several preoperative treatment studies, including one for HER2 positive disease, and one for triple negative disease, and a molecular imaging program that will specifically benefit our inflammatory breast cancer population.

    We have an active patient advocacy group who will become more involved in understanding the impact that inflammatory breast cancer has on a woman's life; not just health. We have strong philanthropic support specifically for inflammatory breast cancer, and of course, the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation grant.

    What are your hopes for the grant-funded research project?

    We are geared to correlate the association of upregulated pSTAT3 activity and inflammatory breast cancer in the laboratory and translate this understanding into the clinic by using JAK2 inhibition as a means of downregulating pSTAT3. This appears to be a very active method for cancer survival among triple negative breast cancers, and inflammatory breast cancer in general, therefore our clinical trial will provide proof of concept that JAK2 inhibition is effective in this virulent disease, and should be part of standard treatment.

    What kind of involvement do you have with the advocacy community?

    As I mentioned previously, Dana-Farber's breast oncology center has a very active advocacy program and we are becoming more involved with the local inflammatory breast cancer support group to improve education and understand the impact of the disease, with the goal of developing interventions that will benefit patients with inflammatory breast cancer.

    — Ginny Mason 

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