Our Partners


Harvard Medicine BRCA1 Project
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

The goal of the Brugge-Livingston work is to create new opportunities that enable a physician to eliminate or greatly reduce the abundance of pre-cancerous, BRCA1 mutation-bearing breast cells. Success would reduce the likelihood that a BRCA1 mutation-bearing woman will develop breast cancer. Their work is also aimed at exploiting the same, new molecular insights for their value as roadmaps to new, more effective therapy for BRCA1 breast cancer. A variety of complementary, cutting edge technologies are being used in this work.

More specifically, the Brugge and Livingston labs are working together to identify molecular events that facilitate the emergence of BRCA1 breast cancer in an ostensibly normal mammary gland. In particular, they are searching for evidence that, on their way to reaching a fully cancerous state, a small fraction of BRCA1 mutation-bearing breast cells acquire new molecular abnormalities that can be accurately detected. At least some of these abnormalities are likely to serve as predictors of a cancerous outcome for the affected cells. These two lab groups aim to develop non- or minimally invasive methods that permit one to detect and eliminate these pre-cancerous cells, thereby reducing the risk of developing BRCA1 breast cancer. Given current knowledge, it seems likely that at least some of these predicted, BRCA1-associated abnormalities could also provide new insights that lead to novel approaches to BRCA1 breast cancer treatment.

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News & Research

Joan Brugge

Harvard Breast Cancer Cell Biologist and Institute of Cancer Research Breast Cancer Endocrinologist Named 2014 Susan G. Komen Brinker Awardees for Scientific Distinction, Business Wire

$90 Million for HMS Cancer Research, Harvard Magazine

The Breast Cancer Research Foundation Celebrates $48.5 Million Commitment to Breast Cancer Research, PR Newswire

Harvard Med narrows faculty gender gap, but slowly, STAT

David Livingston

Awards & Recognition: July 2015, Harvard Medical School

Penn's Basser Center for BRCA Names Molecular Scientist David Livingston Winner of 2015 Annual Basser Global Prize

Penn Medicine

$20 million Commonwealth Foundation for Cancer Research challenge gift to expand collaborative cancer research between Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center and MIT’s Koch Institute, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Bridge Project receives $20m gift for cancer research, The Boston Globe

MIT and Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center received $20 million for cancer research



UCSF Cancer Center

UCSF Helen Diller
Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

There has been considerable research into how BRCA mutations heighten the risk of cancer. Promising avenues for new therapies hold out the prospect of a cure for BRCA-related cancer, although significant effort is still required to achieve this goal. Prevention will be the ultimate solution for many affected family members, but this will not be possible in the short- to medium term. In the meantime, we must urgently address who is most at risk and devise treatments with the goal of curing cancers that arise in BRCA carriers. In order to receive BRCA-directed care, BRCA carriers with cancer and their family members will require a comprehensive approach to diagnosis, screening, and treatment by experts in this disease. AT UCSF, our overall aim is to translate cutting-edge basic research into clinical benefit by building a highly integrated and coordinated research program. We will also ensure we leverage knowledge of BRCA-mutation-related cancers to improve therapy for patients both with BRCA-mutation-related cancers and those that have similar molecular properties. Alan Ashworth and colleagues have termed this phenomenon ‘BRCAness.’

The Center for BRCA Research is addressing key questions: What are the optimal combinations of PARP inhibitors and other therapeutic agents? What are the determinants of BRCAness in diverse diseases such as prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer and ovarian cancer? What are the effects of heterogeneity in BRCA-related cancers? Can we develop molecular markers of response and resistance to PARP inhibitors? Our laboratory seeks to identify, develop, and optimize new therapeutic approaches to the treatment of BRCA cancer. We use synthetic lethal concepts developed by UCSF scientists to optimize the use of inhibitors that can increase the efficacy of anticancer agents by targeting DNA-repair enzymes in the Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) family; develop combination approaches to overcome resistance; and develop novel approaches. We will also apply the knowledge we gain to those tumors with BRCAness— perhaps up to 25% of human cancers— and develop biomarkers to identify such tumors.

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News & Research

Reversion Mutations with Clinical Use of PARP Inhibitors: Many Genes, Many Versions

AACR journal Cancer Discovery, September 2017

How some BRCA carriers with metastatic prostate cancer develop resistance to PARP inhibitor therapy.

AACR journal Cancer Discovery, September 2017

Pamela Munster

UCSF center adds to revolution of care for BRCA carriers, Hem Onc Today, March 2016

BRCA Clinics Expand Further Beyond Breast Cancer

Wall Street Journal, February 2016

Counsyl Offers Free Genetic Cancer Screening to All Women in San Francisco Bay Area Through Collaboration with Bright Pink ® and UCSF

BusinessWire, October 2015

Molecular Imaging May Help Tailor Breast Cancer Therapies

Onc Live, August 2015

For cancer specialists, disease can make them better doctors

SF Gate, June 2014

Scientists Discover Mechanism for Tamoxifen Resistance and How to Defeat It

UCSF News, November 2011

Alan Ashworth

UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center Impact Grants, UCSF News, March 2016

UCSF and Berkeley Lights Collaborate on Single-Cell Genomics

PRNewswire, March 2016

BRCA Clinics Expand Further Beyond Breast Cancer

Wall Street Journal, February 2016

Joe Biden, wife hold cancer roundtable at UCSF

SF Gate, February 2016

VP Joe Biden Visits UCSF to Advance National Cancer Moonshot Initiative

UCSF News, February 2016

Ashworth Receives award from Cancer Nonprofit

UCSF News, June 2015

Ashworth Seeks to Raise UCSF Cancer Center Profile

SF Gate, January 2015

Q&A with Ashworth

UCSF News, January 2015

UCSF picks Alan Ashworth to Head Cancer Center

San Francisco Business Times, March 2014



Stanford Cancer Institute

Little is known about the downstream molecular changes that drive hereditary cancer development in patients with a high familial risk for cancer, such as those who carry mutations in genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2. It appears that the genomic profiles of these ‘inherited’ cancers may be quite unique from most of their ‘sporadic’ counterparts, and suggest distinct approaches to their diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment. It is Stanford’s intent to fill this critical gap in our understanding of the cancer genome landscape by taking advantage of our research strengths in genomics and computational biology, as well as our clinical focus and experience with hereditary cancer genetics.

To achieve this, we will conduct the first extensive genomic analyses of hereditary breast and ovarian cancers from women who carry BRCA mutations. This study will involve deep whole genome sequencing of tumor and normal tissue to identify the key somatic changes in these cancers. We will further extend our analyses to conduct studies of the mechanistic dynamics of tumor evolution to understand the biology of tumor growth so that targets for potential new therapies can be developed. We will also apply, for the first time, an ultrasensitive method for quantitating circulating tumor DNA from samples derived from patients with BRCA1 and BRCA 2. This method, developed at Stanford, will detect specific “signatures” associated with BRCA1/2hereditary cancers learned from our earlier work. This interdisciplinary and collaborative work will further elucidate the understanding of BRCA mutations and apply methods that will be routinely applied clinically to detect and monitor cancers, thereby facilitating personalized cancer therapy for patients with hereditary cancers. Together with our research partners at UCSF and Dana Farber Cancer Institute, we hope to advance our abilities for the prevention, early detection, treatment and cure of hereditary cancers.

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News & Research

Avantika Lal

Multi-omic tumor data reveal diversity of molecular mechanisms that correlate with survival

Beverly Mitchell

Following Many Paths to Beat Cancer

Maximilian Diehn, MD, PhD

How Blood Tests Are Changing Medicine, Time.com

New advances have scientists banking on the idea that the most revealing medical test might be a single drop of your own blood

Blood test could provide rapid, accurate method of detecting solid cancers, study finds

Diehn Lab

James Ford

Gene panel effectively screens dozens of genes for cancer-associated mutations, study finds

Screening for breast/ovarian cancer risk genes other than BRCA1/2 is clinically valuable

Gene panels may be useful, cheaper alternative to whole-genome sequencing, study finds

Allison Kurian

Breast cancer patients with bilateral mastectomy don’t have better survival rates, researchers find

Online tool helps those with BRCA mutations understand options

No higher risk of breast cancer for women who don't have BRCA mutation but have relatives who do

Assessing the Surgical Care of Breast Cancer, Physician's Weekly

Arend Sidow

We may be looking at wrong mutation for breast cancer treatment, Science Daily

The Sidow Lab

Serafim Batzoglou

Stunning diversity of gut bacteria uncovered by new approach to gene sequencing devised at Stanford

Serafim's Lab