Yesterday, Ursa Brown-Glaberman, MD, received the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Clinical Investigator Team Leadership Award. The award was presented at a public meeting of the NCI’s Clinical Trials and Translational Research Advisory Committee. Brown-Glaberman is an Assistant Professor at The University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center. She specializes in treating breast cancer.
The NCI award is given to outstanding cancer clinical investigators. Cancer clinical investigators conduct clinical trials to discover new or better ways to find, prevent and treat cancer. They make sure clinical trials meet strict scientific conditions, meet all required regulations, and are conducted in a way that protects the safety and wellbeing of the people in the clinical trial.
Managing these details requires detailed medical knowledge and the ability to work closely with medical teams. “You really have to know the criteria for the trials,” says Brown-Glaberman. As a cancer clinical investigator, she reviews treatment plans and works with other doctors to make sure that women receive cancer treatment in a way that allows them to take part in clinical trials if they later decide to. “If you miss one step or give one treatment out of order, that [can] render patients not eligible for [clinical] trials later,” she says. “We want to provide patients with as many opportunities as we can.”
Brown-Glaberman works closely with the Breast team at UNM and with the New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance to make breast cancer clinical trials available to all New Mexico women. She also works closely with the Phase 1 Clinical Trials program at UNM Cancer Center.
Phase 1 clinical trials are clinical trials in which a treatment is tested in people for the first time. “Unfortunately, many women still die from breast cancer,” says Brown-Glaberman. “There’s a group of women who are very high risk. We have novel clinical trials looking at, for example, [treatments for] triple negative breast cancer, a disease where we still need to make significant improvements.” Triple negative breast cancer can be aggressive because it does not respond to many treatments currently available.
For less aggressive breast cancers, clinical research focuses on quality of life for survivors. “While some cancers are high risk, most women are cured of their breast cancers, particularly women with lower-risk estrogen-driven breast cancers,” says Brown- Glaberman. “In those women, our focus is reducing toxicity from the cancer treatment.”
The award, which will be funded in September, will help Brown-Glaberman to bring more breast cancer clinical trials to New Mexico. She says, “The idea behind this award is to promote clinical trial participation.”
Dr. Brown-Glaberman holds a Doctor of Medicine from The University of New Mexico School of Medicine where she also completed a research fellowship in the Department of Pathology. She completed her internship, residency and hematology / oncology fellowship at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona. Dr. Brown-Glaberman returned to her home state and to the University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center in 2013. Her interests are centered on the treatment of solid tumors, particularly breast cancer. Her research focuses on the development of prognostic and predictive biomarkers to guide the use of novel therapies. She co-leads the Breast Cancer Clinical Working Group and leads the Breast Protocol Development Subgroup at the UNM Cancer Center. Dr. Brown-Glaberman actively participates in NCI-sponsored clinical trials and is the Institutional Principal Investigator for numerous NCI cooperative group studies. Since her arrival in 2013, Dr. Brown-Glaberman has also driven the UNM Cancer Center Breast Clinical Working Group investigator-initiated clinical trial efforts.
The University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center is the Official Cancer Center of New Mexico and the only National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center in a 500-mile radius. Its 125 board-certified oncology specialty physicians include cancer surgeons in every specialty (abdominal, thoracic, bone and soft tissue, neurosurgery, genitourinary, gynecology, and head and neck cancers), adult and pediatric hematologists/medical oncologists, gynecologic oncologists, and radiation oncologists. They, along with more than 500 other cancer healthcare professionals (nurses, pharmacists, nutritionists, navigators, psychologists and social workers), provided cancer care for nearly 60 percent of the adults and children in New Mexico affected by cancer. They treated 11,249 patients in 84,875 ambulatory clinic visits in addition to in-patient hospitalizations at UNM Hospital. These patients came from every county in the State. More than 12 percent of these patients participated in cancer clinical trials testing new cancer treatments and 35 percent of patients participated in other clinical research studies, including tests of novel cancer prevention strategies and cancer genome sequencing. The 130 cancer research scientists affiliated with the UNMCCC were awarded almost $60 million in federal and private grants and contracts for cancer research projects and published 301 high quality publications. Promoting economic development, they filed more than 30 new patents in FY16, and since 2010, have launched 11 new biotechnology start-up companies. Scientists associated with the UNMCCC Cancer Control & Disparities have conducted more than 60 statewide community-based cancer education, prevention, screening, and behavioral intervention studies involving more than 10,000 New Mexicans. Finally, the physicians, scientists and staff have provided education and training experiences to more than 230 high school, undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral fellowship students in cancer research and cancer health care delivery. Learn more at www.cancer.unm.edu.
Dorothy Hornbeck, JKPR, 505-340-5929, firstname.lastname@example.org
Michele Sequeira, UNM Cancer Center, 505-925-0486, email@example.com