Capucine Héraud, PhD, Awarded 2023 AACR-LBCA ILC Research Fellowship

The Lobular Breast Cancer Alliance (LBCA) is excited to announce Capucine Héraud, PhD, as the recipient of the 2023 AACR-LBCA Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC) Research Fellowship. The two-year grant, totaling $120,000, will support Dr. Héraud’s project titled Elucidating the Unique Biology of ILC and Response to Endocrine Treatments.

With this grant, Dr. Héraud, a research fellow at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, will continue her research on the differences between ILC and invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) cells and how those differences make ILC more resistant to traditional treatments.

“I am so excited that LBCA has been able to offer another two-year ILC research fellowship in partnership with AACR,” commented LBCA Executive Director Laurie Hutcheson. “We are very hopeful that our new grantee’s research will aid the collective understanding of when and why ILC may resist treatment with tamoxifen. Her work will take us one step closer to more effective, lobular-specific treatments!”

Reflecting on the partnership between AACR and LBCA, AACR Chief Philanthropic Officer Mitch Stoller said, “The Lobular Breast Cancer Alliance has touched the lives of so many people. We are privileged to be partners in fulfilling their mission and ensuring there is lifesaving research being done on ILC.”

Upon hearing of her selection for this grant, Dr. Héraud commented, “I am extremely honored and grateful to be a recipient of this AACR-LBCA Invasive Lobular Carcinoma Research Fellowship. With this support, I am excited to be able to advance our research into epigenetic changes in ILC versus IDC by using single-cell analysis.”

In describing her research, Dr. Héraud notes that despite being different histological subtypes and having unique genetic landscapes, which several studies have confirmed, lobular breast cancers are treated just the same as ductal. This is because there have been insufficient studies focusing on developing treatments that are tailored to the unique biology of ILC. She explained that in her lab, she and her colleagues have investigated the differences between ILC and IDC in cancer cells grown in the laboratory.

Dr. Héraud reports that they discovered that the “chromatin state,” which represents the regions in the DNA that are actively being expressed, is unique in ILC when compared to IDC. This difference, she explains, leads to the increased expression of genes involved in tumor progression and tamoxifen resistance. They found further that the unique chromatin state in ILC is mainly driven by FOXA1, a protein that is responsible for expressing DNA.

With this grant, she proposes following up on recent findings in preclinical models and clinical samples. She and her team will conduct her new research utilizing breast cancer tissue samples from the PELOPS clinical trial, in which tissue biopsies were taken from patients with early-stage IDC or ILC before and after two weeks of tamoxifen or letrozole treatment – two different hormone therapies used to treat breast cancer. They will study the patient tumor samples and isolate individual nuclei (the genetic center) from single cells. Then, they will analyze the chromatin accessible sites and transcriptome for each cell. (The transcriptome refers to the collective mRNA levels in the cell).

Through their investigation, they will address the following:

  1. The differences in the cellular populations, chromatin state, and transcriptomes of singular cells in ILC as compared to IDC. They will look at both the cancer cells and the surrounding areas around the cancer (tumor immune microenvironment – containing different types of immune cells), and
  2. The effects of tamoxifen versus letrozole on the chromatin accessible sites and transcriptomes in ILC and IDC at the level of single cells.

Results from this study have the potential to definitively determine if ILC responds differently to tamoxifen and identify new therapeutic targets for precision medicine in ILC.

Dr. Héraud’s research furthers LBCA’s mission of ILC advocacy by not only acknowledging the difference between ILC and IDC, but also looking at what makes them different – and the ramifications those differences hold for treatment options and outcomes.

Dr. Héraud received her bachelor’s degree at the University of Nantes in France. She then received her master’s degree and PhD from the University of Bordeaux.

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