Monthly Archives: November 2013

11.15.2013 – Professzor Polyak Kornelia

The speaker: Professzor Polyak Kornelia MD, PhD

Title of the presentation: “Breast tumor evolution”

Kornelia Polyak MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine Harvard Medical School, Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Principle Investigator, Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Associate Member, the Broad Institute.

The goal of Dr. Polyak’s laboratory is to investigate the molecular basis of breast tumor evolution with special emphasis on the role of the microenvironment and intratumor diversity in these processes. Her work is focusing on identifying molecular alterations between normal and cancerous breast tissue using various technologies, determining their consequences, and utilizing them to improve the clinical management of breast cancer patients.

Dr. Polyak obtained her M.D. degree summa cum laude in 1991 from the Albert Szent-Györgyi Medical School in Szeged Hungary and her Ph.D. degree in 1995 from Cornell University Graduate School of Medical Sciences/Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York. Dr. Polyak completed her postdoctoral training in Baltimore at the Johns Hopkins Oncology Center in the laboratory of Drs. Bert Vogelstein and Ken Kinzler.

Dr. Polyak has received numerous awards including the Julienne Rachele Prize (1995, Cornell University), the W. Barry Wood, Jr. Research Prize (1998, Johns Hopkins University), Kimmel Scholar Award (1999, Sidney Kimmel Foundation), V Scholar award (2001, V Foundation), the Tisch Family Outstanding Achievement Award (2005, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute), the Claire W. and Richard P. Morse Research Award (2006, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute), the 27th Annual AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement (2007, AACR), the Paul Marks Prize for Cancer Research (2011, MSKCC), and the 2012 AACR Outstanding Investigator Award for Breast Cancer Research. She was elected to the American Association of Clinical Investigation and to the Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars in 2008, and served on the AACR Board of Directors (2010-2013).

About the lecture: Intratumor genetic and phenotypic heterogeneity of cancer cells underlies tumor progression and therapeutic resistance, thus, it is a major clinical problem. We have characterized intratumor genetic and phenotypic heterogeneity by immunoFISH (iFISH) in DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ), primary invasive tumors, lymph node and distant metastases as well as breast tumor biopsies before and after treatment. We found the highest genetic diversity in distant metastases but surprisingly these lesions were less divergent than primary-lymph node pairs. Intratumor diversity was also associated with tumor subtype and response to treatment. We also developed preclinical models to address the functional relevance of intratumor clonal heterogeneity in breast cancer and found cooperative interactions that promote tumor growth and metastatic progression. Our analyses of clonal frequency and drivers of tumor growth have revealed some unexpected findings. Our results emphasize the need to understand the cancer cell populations that compose tumors to be able to predict tumor evolution.