Imaging and Geonomic Biomarkers for Cancer Therapy Monitoring

Lecture / Panel
For NYU Community

Image depicting human body outline


Mirella Altoe, PhD
Research Fellow, Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center


Breast cancer is fast becoming the leading cause of mortality in women worldwide. There are more than 3.1 million women with a history of breast cancer in the U.S., and about 41,760 women are expected to die from this disease. Neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAC) has become a well-established therapy in the treatment of patients with locally advanced or primarily inoperable breast cancer. It consists of 3-9 months of drug treatment to shrink the tumor size before surgical removal of any remaining mass. A pathological complete response (pCR) is defined as complete disappearance of the tumor before surgery and correlates with 5-year overall survival of the treated patient. However, only 15-40% of subjects who undergo NAC will achieve a pCR, while the remaining patients do not benefit from a therapy that has considerable side effects. In talk Dr. Altoe will explore the potential of diffuse optical tomography (DOT) for breast cancer imaging and NAC monitoring. The overall objective is to identify breast cancer patients who will not respond to NAC shortly after the initiation of a 5-9 months therapy regimen. Identifying these patients early will allow a switch to a more promising therapy and avoiding months of ineffective therapy with a drug regimen that has considerable side effects.

Dr. Altoe receied a BS degree in Electrical Engineering from the Universidade de Brasilia in 2014. During that time, she engaged in several research internships at US institutions, including MIT, Johns Hopkins, and UC Davis. She went on to pursue a PhD degree in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Columbia University in New York. In her PhD research she discovered several optical imaging biomarkers for the early assessment of the efficacy of breast cancer adjuvant chemo therapy.  Following a postdoctoral appointment at NYU, she accepted a Research Fellow position at the world-renowned Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in 2022. There she is currently developing machine learning methods for the detection of genomic variants, including those mediating cancer treatment resistance to immune checkpoint blockade therapy using results from MSK-IMPACT testing. Her cutting-edge work has been published top ranked journals such as Cancer Research, Radiology, and Clinical Cancer Research

Hemoglobin levels maps for the contralateral unaffected breast
Hemoglobin levels maps for the contralateral unaffected breast of 47-year-old women who achieved a pathological complete response (pCR) after TCHP therapy for HER2+ breast cancer. Shown are MIP images (axial orientation) acquired at baseline and 2 weeks after NAC initiation (TP!).