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VCU Massey Cancer Center


Making strides against breast cancer


Every day VCU Massey Cancer Center is discovering new and better ways to treat and prevent breast and other cancers. Here are two of the latest discoveries in breast cancer.

Procedure reduces pain and discomfort in breast cancer patients
Breast cancer patients requiring a sentinel node biopsy no longer need to experience painful injections of radiocolloid, a blue dye that helps doctors identify sentinel lymph nodes. Massey surgical oncologist Huan Vu, M.D., is the only breast cancer surgeon in the region who administers radiocolloid after his patients have been anesthetized for the surgical biopsy in order to eliminate any pain and discomfort associated with the injections. In a study of more than 750 women that he conducted in 2005-2010, Vu and his colleagues in the Division of Surgical Oncology found the intraoperative injections to be just as effective in identifying cancer present in the sentinel nodes and determining the stage of the cancer when compared to preoperative injections.

Targeted viral therapy destroys breast cancer stem cells in preclinical experiments
A promising new viral gene therapy for breast cancer being developed at Massey has been shown in cell culture and animal models to selectively kill cancer stem cells at the original tumor site and in distant metastases with no toxic effects on healthy cells. In addition, the therapy is being combined with an advanced imaging technique known as ultrasound-targeted microbubble destruction (UTMD), which could allow doctors to deliver the viral therapy directly to tumors and monitor the effectiveness of the therapy in real time using ultrasound imaging. The novel treatment approach manipulates a gene known as mda-7/IL-24, discovered by Massey scientist Paul Fisher, M.Ph., Ph.D.

Clinical trials are critical to advancing new treatments from the research lab to patients. Massey currently offers approximately 18 clinical trials on breast cancer –view the full listing.

Clinical trial uses Viagra in drug combination to improve the effectiveness of cancer treatment while protecting the heart
With over 20 million users, Viagra may be one of the most recognizable drugs in the world. But now, the widely known impotence drug is being studied in the treatment of breast and other cancers. Massey researchers previously discovered in laboratory experiments that Viagra protected the heart from the damaging effects of popular chemotherapy drug doxorubicin. Now the research is being tested in patients in a new Massey-led Phase 1 clinical trial that is studying the combination of doxorubicin and Viagra. The study will also examine if there are any markers in a patient’s blood that predicts who is more likely to develop heart damage from doxorubicin. With nearly half of all cancer survivors dying from other conditions than cancer, most notably cardiovascular disease, this new treatment is not only innovative but necessary.

Clinical trial uses a malaria drug to improve the effectiveness of radiation therapy 
A phase 1 clinical trial led by Massey is testing the maximum tolerable dose of hydroxychloroquine in patients undergoing radiation therapy for metastatic solid tumors, including breast cancer. Hydroxychloroquine is most commonly used to fight malaria; however, research suggests it could make cancer cells more susceptible to radiation therapy. Patients in the study will be given increasing doses of hydroxychloroquine prior to radiation treatments in order to determine any potential side effects. Once the maximum tolerable dose is established, future clinical trials will seek to determine the effectiveness of this new treatment.


Massey’s doctors and researchers are leading experts in breast cancer. A recent addition is board-certified medical oncologist and clinical cancer researcher Charles Edward Geyer, Jr., M.D., F.A.C.P., who is internationally recognized for his expertise in the study and treatment of breast cancer. From 2004 to 2011, he served as the director of medical affairs at the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP), where he was responsible for the development and oversight of the national cooperative group’s clinical studies for breast and colorectal cancers. He was also the founding co-chairman of the NCI (National Cancer Institute) Breast Cancer Steering Committee, which coordinates the nation’s process for identifying and promoting the “best science” in breast cancer clinical research by addressing the design and prioritization of phase 3 and large phase 2 trials for breast cancer.

For patient appointments with VCU Massey doctors, please call (877) 4-MASSEY.



Help honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month by attending one or more of the following events:

Seminar on breast cancer: To screen or not to screen and how about MRI?
Tuesday, October 8, 2013, 5:30 pm  6:30 pm at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Dr. Gilda Cardeñosa, medical director of VCU Breast Imaging, will discuss the latest recommendations for mammography and answer your questions about Breast MRI screenings. This seminar is free and open to the public, but registration is recommended.

VCU Presidential Symposium on Cancer: Cancer Care across the Continuum
Saturday, October 12, 2013, 9:00 am – 3:30 pm, VCU McGlothlin Medical Education Center
VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., and VCU Massey Cancer Center invite all health care providers, cancer researchers, patients, survivors and community members to come together to engage in dialogue about the latest in cancer care, research and prevention. General attendance is free, but registration is required. Continuing education credits are available for physicians and dentists.

Pink Ribbons of Hope
Multiple dates
This series of events, including golf, bridge, tennis and Mah Jongg, raises money specifically for breast cancer research at Massey.

Saks Fifth Avenue’s Key to the Cure presented by Wells Fargo – The Private Bank
Thursday, October 17, 2013, 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm at Saks Richmond, Stony Point Fashion Park
Saks Fifth Avenue rolls out the pink carpet in support of women’s cancer research at Massey for Key to the Cure presented by Wells Fargo – The Private Bank. Featured will be fashion, shopping incentives, music and culinary delights from the area’s premier chefs, a fabulous silent auction and Man Cave.

Cure 5k Fun Run/Walk to benefit VCU Massey Cancer Center
Saturday, October 19, 2013, 8:00 am at Stonehenge Golf & Country Club, Midlothian
This 3.2 mile run/walk will take place on the cart paths of the golf course and will feature a water stop around the 1.8 mile marker. The event benefits cancer research at Massey.


Get information about breast cancer – including definitions, types, causes, risk factors, signs and symptoms, diagnosis and treatments – from Virginia’s cancer resource, VCU Massey Cancer Center. Also learn about breast cancer care and breast cancer clinical trials available at Massey.

Learn general information about breast cancer: definitions, types, causes, risk factors, signs and symptoms, diagnosis and treatments

Get breast cancer care at Massey

Find a breast cancer clinical trial at Massey

Written by: Jenny Owen

Posted on: September 18, 2013

Category: Clinical news

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