Conquer Cancer Researcher Spotlight: Dr. Xiuning Le

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Xiuning Le, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Specialty: Thoracic/head & neck cancer, breast cancer

Of all the adjectives used to describe cancer, one in particular can be surprising: smart. In fact, one of the reasons cancer can be so hard to treat is because it is smart. Therapies that initially prove successful sometimes stall because cancer has found a way around them; in other words, cancer can become resistant to treatment.

Fortunately, there are bright minds at work finding ways to conquer resistance. One of them is
Xiuning Le, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. She is studying a type of treatment-resistant breast cancer that affects about one-third of patients. Her research was made possible by the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which funded her 2016 Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO Young Investigator Award.

“My work involves trying to understand why resistance is acquired during the treatment course and then developing new ways to overcome the resistance so that my patient can stay in response for a longer duration,” explained Dr. Le.

For Dr. Le, the issue of treatment resistance is personal. During her medical oncology fellowship, she developed a friendship with a patient—a young woman who had both breast and lung cancers. Ultimately, treatment failed, and the patient passed away.

“The helplessness I felt during the course of caring for her really imprinted on me,” said Dr. Le. “I want to create more options for patients like her.”

In order for physicians like Dr. Le to discover new options, however, they must first have the resources they need to do the work. That’s why the support of Conquer Cancer donors is critical. The research grants their dollars enable lead to breakthroughs that restore hope for patients.

“Donating money to the Conquer Cancer Foundation is important so that young investigators like me will be funded,” explained Dr. Le. “In return, we will be able to do research to move the frontier of conquering cancer forward to benefit our patient population.” ■

Originally featured by the Conquer Cancer Foundation. © American Society of Clinical Oncology. “Dr. Xiuning Le.” All rights reserved.