Fergus Couch, Max Wicha Honored by AACR for Breast Cancer Research

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) recently recognized 2 renowned researchers for their work in breast cancer during the 2016 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS).

Fergus J. Couch, PhD

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) recently recognized 2 renowned researchers for their work in breast cancer during the 2016 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS).

Fergus J. Couch, PhD, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, received the AACR Outstanding Investigator Award for Breast Cancer Research, and Max S. Wicha, MD, of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, received the AACR Distinguished Lectureship in Breast Cancer Research award.

Couch, chair of the Division of Experimental Pathology and Laboratory Medicine in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at the Mayo Clinic, was chosen in recognition of his seminal work in identifying the inherited genes and mutations that predispose patients to breast cancer, according to a release from SABCS. Much of his research has focused on determining the clinical relevance of inherited variants of uncertain significance in breast cancer predisposition genes using genetic epidemiology and molecular biology approaches.

Couch is also a founder and member of the Evidence-based Network for the Interpretation of Germline Mutant Alleles (ENIGMA) consortium, and a leader in the BRCA Challenge and the Prospective Registry of Multiplex Testing (PROMPT) initiatives aimed at understanding alterations in cancer predisposition genes. Couch also co-founded the Consortium of Investigators of Modifiers of BRCA1/2 (CIMBA), a Triple Negative Breast Cancer Consortium (TNBCC), and is a long-term member of the Breast Cancer Association Consortium.

The AACR Outstanding Investigator Award for Breast Cancer Research, funded by Susan G. Komen, recognizes investigators under age 50 whose work has had or may have a far-reaching impact in the field of breast cancer. Their work may involve any discipline across the continuum of biomedical research, including basic, translational, clinical, and epidemiological studies.

His work with members of these consortia has included leading genome-wide association studies to identify common genetic variants that influence risk of estrogen receptor (ER)—negative and triple-negative breast cancer and modify risks of breast cancer among carriers of germlineBRCA1andBRCA2mutations.

Max S. Wicha, MD

More recently, Couch has been working to estimate risks of breast cancer associated with pathogenic variants identified by clinical genetic testing using multigene panels, and is leading an effort to identify genetic factors that account for the missing heritability of breast cancer.Wicha, director emeritus at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, was recognized with the AACR Distinguished Leadership in Breast Cancer Research award for his leadership in breast cancer research.

The award was established to recognize outstanding science that has inspired or has the potential to inspire new perspectives on the etiology, diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of breast cancer.

Wicha is one of the most highly cited investigators in the field of breast cancer. His group was part of the team that first identified cancer stem cells in human breast cancers, the first in any solid tumor, and his laboratory has developed many of the techniques and assays used to study these cells and to elucidate the pathways that regulate their behavior.

Wicha, co-founder of OncoMed Pharmaceuticals, received training at the National Cancer Institute in clinical oncology and cancer biology. He joined the faculty of the University of Michigan in 1980, where he served as chief in the Division of Hematology/Oncology in the Department of Internal Medicine. He served as director of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center since its inception in 1986 until 2015, when he became director emeritus. He remains an active clinician, specializing in the treatment of patients with breast cancer.