Penn’s Basser Center for BRCA Names David Livingston, MD, Winner of 2015 Annual Basser Global Prize

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David Livingston, MD

Susan Domchek, MD

The Basser Center and the Basser Global Prize provide extraordinary opportunities for scientists to pursue research directed at reducing the heavy burden of BRCA disease.

—David Livingston, MD

The Basser Center for BRCA at Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center has announced the recipient of its third annual Basser Global Prize: molecular cancer expert David ­Livingston, MD, Emil Frei Professor of Genetics and Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Deputy Director of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. Dr. Livingston has made significant contributions toward understanding how DNA mutations damage the repair genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 to promote cancer development.

A marquee component of the center, the Basser Global Prize includes $200,000 in unrestricted support of the winner’s innovative BRCA1/2-related research efforts.

“Nominees for the Basser Global Prize represent the pioneers in our field conducting the most innovative research aimed at developing new strategies for the prevention and treatment of BRCA-related cancers,” said Susan Domchek, MD, Executive Director of the Basser Center for BRCA and the Basser Professor of Medicine in Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center. “One of the primary missions of the Basser Center is to fund the projects that will make a difference for patients with BRCA1/2 mutations, giving them better options for targeted therapies and improved quality of life.”

High-Impact Research

The primary focus of Dr. Livingston’s laboratory is to understand the fundamental mechanisms and steps by which inherited mutations in BRCA1/2 lead to breast and ovarian cancers. His group is pursuing an approach that focuses on understanding, in detail, the cellular processes that are rendered defective by BRCA1 mutation. In this regard, he and his group have recently unearthed a potentially promising target function that may be important for preventing BRCA1-related cancers, as well as for the treatment of non-BRCA1 cancers that have spread.

Dr. Livingston’s goal is to reduce the number of cells in the breast and ovaries of BRCA1 mutation–bearing women that manifest a high potential for becoming malignant. “Our objective is to eliminate them by a relatively nontoxic approach and to ensure that they do not accumulate thereafter,” Dr. Livingston explained. “If successful, such an approach has the potential to significantly reduce the likelihood of BRCA1 cancer developing in mutation-bearing women.”

Dr. Livingston added, “The Basser Center and the Basser Global Prize provide extraordinary opportunities for scientists to pursue research directed at reducing the heavy burden of BRCA disease.”

The Basser Center

In 2012, the Basser Center was established through a $25 million gift from Penn alumni Mindy and Jon Gray in memory of Mindy Gray’s sister Faith Basser, who died of ovarian cancer at age 44. In 2013, the Grays made an additional $5 million gift to launch the Basser External Research Grant Program, a unique funding program for high-impact, translational cancer research projects aimed at advancing the care of people living with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations.

The Basser Global Prize was established by Shari Basser Potter and Leonard ­Potter to honor a visionary scientist who has conceptually advanced BRCA1/2-related research that has led to improvements in clinical care.

Applications for the 2016 Basser Prize will be open in February 2016. ■