Kelly K. Hunt, MD, FACS
Professor of Surgery and Chief, Surgical Breast Section
2012-2013 BCRF Project:
On behalf of Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology, formerly American College of Surgeons Oncology Group
Department of Surgical Oncology
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Co-Investigators: Matthew J. Ellis, MD, PhD Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO; D. Craig Allred, MD Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO; Cynthia Ma, MD, PhD, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO; A. Marilyn Leitch , University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX
In 2004, Dr. Matthew Ellis engaged the American College of Surgeons Oncology Group (ACOSOG), now a part of the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology, and the National Cancer Institute to conduct a trial of treating estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancers with aromatase inhibitors before surgery (or the "neoadjuvant" setting). The resulting trial, called ACOSOG Z1031, was built around the observation that the growth of estrogen receptor positive breast cancer is fueled by estrogen. Aromatase inhibitors, a form of anti-estrogen therapy, work by blocking the enzyme aromatase, which turns the hormone androgen into small amounts of estrogen in the body and produces less estrogen to stimulate the growth of ER+ breast cancer cells.
With BCRF support, the ACOSOG Z1031 trial (cohort B) has completed accrual with 245 patients on study and 35 patients triaged to chemotherapy. All patients have completed therapy and a paper describing the results is planned for the second half of 2012. This trial has had a tremendous impact though the recent publication of a paper in Nature journal entitled "Whole genome analysis informs breast cancer response to aromatase inhibition." The results presented in this publication will accelerate the arrival of a comprehensive personalized approach to breast cancer treatment, with the promise of reduced toxicity and an increase in treatment effectiveness.
Dr. Ellis's team has also launched the ALTERNATE trial, the successor trial to Z1031, which will provide a definitive validation of the Preoperative Endocrine Prognostic Index, as means to spare patients chemotherapy, as well as an opportunity to develop a large validation sets for complex gene expression, gene copy and gene mutation based predictive models they are in the process of developing. This study will help lead to improved prognostic models and new avenues for the treatment of resistant disease.
Mid-year Progress: The ALTERNATE trial is designed to evaluate two primary objectives. The first objective is to examine whether patients with early stage, meaning no disease outside of the breast and the axillary lymph nodes, estrogen receptor positive (ER+) and HER2-negative breast cancer, who had a Modified Preoperative Prognostic Index (PEPI) score of 0 at the time of surgery following six months of endocrine therapy, have a low risk of recurrence in five years without the need of chemotherapy. The second objective is to compare the effectiveness of three different endocrine therapies in the likelihood of leading to a modified PEPI score of 0 when administered for six months prior to surgery, so that the most effective therapies could be studied further. These three different endocrine therapies include anastrozole, a standard drug for treatment of early stage cancer, and fulvestrant, which is a drug that decreases the amount of estrogen receptor (ER) in ER positive breast cancer, either as a single drug or in combination. Fulvestrant has been approved in patients with metastatic breast cancer, but not for early stage cancer.
This trial will help to determine whether fulvestrant could be a better therapy for early stage breast cancer. In addition, tumor biopsies are taken during therapy to check for Ki67, which marks cells that are going through cell proliferation, to determine whether the tumor is responding appropriately. If the tumor is not responding, patients will be switched to other alternative therapies, such as chemotherapy or surgery or other clinical trials. Modified PEPI score is calculated at the time of surgery. The calculation is based on the size of the tumor, whether there are any lymph nodes involved and whether the Ki-67 is high. The Modified PEPI score will help to decide whether a patient needs chemotherapy after surgery. An important aspect of this trial continues to be looking at what molecular factors predict a response or not to therapy and what mechanisms are involved, so that effective drugs could be developed. This trial has the potential to develop better treatments for patients with ER+ breast cancer and methods to determine the risk of recurrence and the need for treatments other than endocrine therapy. Since the start of this award, the researchers have been working on experiments in the laboratory to make sure that the assay that they are using to test for Ki-67 is accurate and reproducible. The results of these experiments are required by Food and Drug Administration and National Cancer Institute for the final approval of this trial. Dr. Ellis's team anticipates completion of these experiments before the end of this grant period so that the trial will be activated in year 2013.
Dr. Hunt received her medical degree with highest honors from The University of Tennessee Center for the Health Sciences, Memphis, Tennessee, in 1986. From 1986 to 1993, she fulfilled her postgraduate training at the University of California Los Angeles School of Medicine, where her positions included: resident, Department of Surgery; surgical oncology research fellow, National Institutes of Health Surgical Oncology Training Grant recipient; American Cancer Society Clinical Fellow in the Division of Surgical Oncology; assistant resident in general surgery, Department of Surgery; and chief resident in general surgery. She also served as a registrar in General and Vascular Surgery, University Hospital, Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham, England. From 1994 to 1996, she was a surgical oncology fellow at The M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.
Dr. Hunt joined the M. D. Anderson faculty in 1994 as junior faculty associate in the Department of Surgical Oncology. In 1996, she was promoted to Assistant Professor of Surgery, and in 2000, was named Associate Professor of Surgical Oncology and Chief, Surgical Breast Section in the Department of Surgical Oncology. In 2004, Dr. Hunt was named as Professor of Surgery. Within the Department of Surgical Oncology, Dr. Hunt also serves as the Director of the Surgical Breast Research Program. She is the Director of the weekly Breast Education Conferences. In addition to her responsibilities in the Department of Surgical Oncology, Dr. Hunt is also the Associate Medical Director of the Nellie B. Connally Breast Center and the Director of the Breast Lymphatic Mapping Working Group at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.
Dr. Hunt has received numerous awards, including the American Cancer Society Clinical Fellow of the Year for two consecutive years. She holds membership in a number of institutional committees, including the Steering Committee of the Breast Cancer Research Group and the Executive Committee of the Medical Staff. Dr. Hunt has published over 240 peer-reviewed articles in journals such as Annals of Surgical Oncology, Cancer, Cancer Research, The Journal of Clinical Oncology, and Science. In addition she has published 20 invited articles, two editorials, over 200 abstracts in the past 5 years, and 24 book chapters. She has edited three books on breast cancer and one book on gene therapy. She has been an invited speaker at over 111 national and international presentations, and more than 70 other guest lectures, grand rounds, visiting professorships, and professional conferences.
Since her arrival at MD Anderson, Dr. Hunt has served as principal investigator, collaborator and co-investigator on numerous grants, contracts and funded protocols. She is the Chair of the Breast Organ Site Committee and a member of the Executive Committee of the American College of Surgeons Oncology Group; a member of the Correlative Science Committee of the Breast Cancer Intergroup of North America; and a member of the Scientific Program Committee of the Society of Surgical Oncology. Her primary research interests are gene therapy and tumor suppressor genes, and her clinical interests include breast conservation, sentinel lymph node biopsy, and skin-sparing mastectomy.