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Deconstructing Breast Cancer

Dr. Goodwin is leading the largest clinical trial worldwide to explore metformin’s potential to reduce recurrence and improve survival rates in women with early-stage breast cancer.
Deconstructing Breast Cancer

Dr. Pamela Goodwin holds the Marvelle Koffler Chair in Breast Research.

The discovery that insulin plays a role in cancer is a game changer. It is acclaimed clinician-scientist Dr. Pamela Goodwin, Director of Mount Sinai’s Marvelle Koffler Breast Centre who is leading the way in finding innovative ways to mitigate the risk in patients with breast cancer. Her pivotal research has shown that high levels of insulin associated with obesity encourage tumour growth and make breast cancer recurrence more likely. A commonly used diabetes medication called metformin reduces insulin levels and Dr. Goodwin is leading the largest clinical trial worldwide to explore its potential to reduce recurrence and improve survival in women with early-stage breast cancer.

“Tumours develop and metastasize based on a complex interplay of factors that includes characteristics of the patient. Changing the patient’s physiology by lowering her natural insulin level may make her body more inhospitable to tumour growth and can potentially change the outcome of the cancer,” says Dr. Goodwin.

Dr. Goodwin’s research into how a patient’s lifestyle and unique physiologic and genetic makeup interact with specific types of breast cancer has already impacted our ability to better predict outcomes and response to therapy. For example, in a recent study Dr. Goodwin found that vitamin D deficiency associated with higher-grade breast cancer tumours, increased risk of recurrence and lower overall survival rates than those patients with sufficient vitamin D levels.

“Studies that pinpoint these types of modifiable risk factors can be revolutionary,” says Dr. Goodwin. “The results help transform how we practice medicine, how we conduct research, and how we turn research into clinical practice.”

Through her leadership in the Marvelle Koffler Breast Centre at Mount Sinai—a world renowned resource for breast cancer patients that has over 33,000 patient visits annually— Dr. Goodwin has created some of Canada’s most effective support group programs that empower patients with new knowledge about lifestyle interventions to help decrease the risk of cancer recurrence.

Dr. Goodwin’s earlier work in this area received international attention, including coverage in The New York Times, and has changed the way clinicians understand and treat breast cancer. Her recent work on metformin has been highlighted in Science, a leading scientific journal.

Dr. Goodwin’s outstanding research achievements have been recognized through several awards, including an Excellence in Canadian Breast Cancer Award for Clinical Research in 2011. She is an Editor at the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the highest impact clinical oncology journal in the world, and she is frequently asked to speak and provide input into breast cancer research and clinical programs around the world.