New Study Investigates Long-Term Survivors of Metastatic Breast Cancer

Dr. Mark Burkard

Mark Burkard, MD, PhD, associate professor, Hematology, Medical Oncology and Palliative Care has been awarded $300,000 over two years from the AVON Foundation for a proposal entitled "Outliers--extreme long term survivors with metastatic breast cancer."

The study is focusing on a group of medically extraordinary women who have survived advanced metastatic breast cancer that is normally incurable. 

Fifteen patients from UW Health have been enrolled, and more are sought; all will undergo genetic testing and immunological testing, as well as assessment of lifestyle factors. 

"Why do these people live so long with incurable cancer? If we can understand that, can we help other people live longer than they're living now?," said Dr. Burkard.

To identify the root cause of the exceptional survival, Dr. Burkard and collaborator Gabrielle Rocque, MD, assistant professor, University of Alabama-Birmingham, will investigate whether cancers of these exceptional long-term survivors are genetically distinct from other cancers, whether the immune system of these survivors is different, and/or whether the survivors' treatments or behaviors are distinctive.

The group has teamed with the Dr. Susan Love Foundation and the 380,844-strong volunteer Army of Women to identify hundreds of additional long-term survivors.