Research News

IU Simon Cancer Center Update - June

Mary Maxwell, Development Director, IU Simon Cancer Center
(Friday, July 6, 2012)
Indianapolis, IN Researchers are making discoveries every day at the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer Research Laboratories at Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center. Meet Sunil Badve, M.D., a pathologist specializing in developing effective targeted breast cancer treatments.

Those who regularly attend the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer's Annual Girls’ Night Out might know Dr. Sunil Badve as “the suit” who, along with Dr. Hari Nakshatri, dresses in formal attire at a party where most others aspire for fun and flirty. If Sunil comes across as serious, it’s because he’s immensely serious about developing more effective treatments for women with breast cancer.

A pathologist, Sunil focuses on pursuing markers, or signature traits, that delineate one type of tumor from another and help doctors determine what therapy will work best for an individual patient. For example, he and Hari have already discovered that the presence of a protein known as FOXA1 is linked to a good prognosis for women with ER-positive breast cancer. When these women are retreated with tamoxifen, they are at low risk for recurrence. That information not only gives physicians direction when planning treatments, it also provides patients with some peace of mind.

Other projects include collaborating with Dr. Bryan Schneider to identify a marker that predicts a patient’s response to anti-angiogenic therapy and investigating a signature to predict development of brain metastasis in patients with HER2 positive disease.

Sunil considers this research “the icing on the cake.” The “cake” is his work as hospital pathologist. In this role, he analyzes patients’ tumors and provides a precise diagnosis, including exact type and stage of cancer and how quickly it is likely to spread. Breast cancer surgeons at the IU Simon Cancer Center have Sunil’s pathology reports in hand when sitting with a patient to discuss her future and map her treatment.

Sunil and his wife, Romil Saxena, a pathologist with IU’s liver transplant program, are both from India and delight in collecting artist-autographed, still-framed images from filmed cartoons, particularly Disney classics. He descends from a long line of Hindu priests in a region near Bombay. He earned his medical degree in Bombay before specializing in pathology in London. He moved to the United States to complete his residency and fellowship.

Vera Bradley Research Update: Drs. Sunil Badve and Hari Nakshatri are tackling the elusive breast cancer stem cells that give rise to the disease yet evade standard treatment. These cells are thought to be responsible for drug resistance, cancer metastasis and disease recurrence. To speed up the development of an effective treatment, they are testing FDA approved drugs that have never been tried on cancer stem cells. Although new drugs are in development, some are highly toxic and years away from FDA approval. If existing drugs demonstrate efficacy in the lab, they can be used as models to develop stem-cell specific drugs.

Special Thanks! Drs. Badve, Bowling, Clare, Clemmer, Firulli, Flockhart, Gilley, Grimes, Hattab, He, Herbert, Hutchins, Ivan, Jotwani, Johnson, Konger, Li, Meroueh, Miller, Mina, Nakshatri, Nephew, Novotny, Radovich, Saykin, Schneider, Skaar, Sledge, Slee, Stantz, Storniolo, Tanaka, Vargo-Gogola, Walczak, Wells, Zhang, and Zheng.