Karen Liby, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Medicine
Dartmouth Medical School
Dartmouth, New Hampshire
2013-2014 BCRF Project:
(The Nestlé Waters North America Award)
Co-Investigator: Michael Sporn, MD, Dartmouth Medical School
Drs. Sporn and Liby have shown in the past year that the combination of two drugs is significantly more effective than either drug by itself in preventing breast cancer in a highly aggressive laboratory model. Both drugs have important effects in suppressing the tumor promoting actions of the inflammatory cells that drive the development of cancer. One of the drugs, SAHA, is already approved by the FDA for clinical use in treatment of cancer, and the other drug, CDDO methyl ester, has successfully completed phase I clinical trials for treatment of advanced cancer. For these new prevention studies, Drs. Sporn and Liby are attempting to use drugs that have potential for clinical application in women at high risk, with a goal of eliminating the need for bilateral prophylactic mastectomy.
For women with a mutated breast cancer gene (BRCA) who are at exceptionally high risk for developing breast cancer, it is important that alternatives to bilateral prophylactic mastectomy be developed. One such approach is chemoprevention, which is the use of drugs to prevent the original formation of cancers, rather than treating existing cancers. In their present studies, Drs. Sporn and Liby have just shown for the first time, that two drugs (olaparib and veliparib) are effective agents in laboratory models for delaying the formation of new breast cancers caused by BRCA mutation. These drugs belong to the class known as PARP inhibitors, which are currently in clinical trials for treatment of breast and ovarian cancer. PARP inhibitors have not been previously investigated for prevention of breast cancer, so the researchers believe that this new approach is worthy of further study, with the eventual goal of being able to use a PARP inhibitor for actual clinical use for prevention in women at exceptionally high risk.
Karen Liby earned her PhD from the University of Cincinnati and then joined the laboratory of Michael B. Sporn, a pioneer in the field of chemoprevention. She currently is a member of the Department of Medicine at Dartmouth Medical School. She was awarded the Wilson S. Stone Memorial Award by the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in 2007.
Her research priorities are to develop and test new drugs and drugs combinations for the prevention and treatment of cancer. She has tested several novel drugs and found that they can both prevent and treat experimental breast cancer in animals. She is also studying the molecular mechanism of action of these drugs and identifying and validating biomarkers that will needed to evaluate these drugs in the clinic.