Professor Mitch Dowsett has a long-standing interest in breast cancer. His PhD training was conducted at The Institute of Cancer Research, London on the mechanism of bone breakdown by breast cancer metastases.
His interest in biomarkers was also initiated and extended by training in Clinical Biochemistry at St Barts Hospital, London. This placed him in a good position for then managing (from 1980) the steroid biochemistry service at the Chelsea Hospital for Women, a specialist centre for infertility and gynaecology that was adjacent to The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, London.
Collaboration with the Breast Unit of the The Royal Marsden was initiated immediately with Drs Ian Smith, Adrian Harris, Charles Coombes and Trevor Powles (all long since Professors). He joined The Royal Marsden in 1988 as head of a new Biochemical Endocrinology Team and became Head of the joint Royal Marsden Hospital-ICR Academic Department of Biochemistry in 1990.
His chair in Biochemical Endocrinology was awarded by London University in 1994 and he was named Professor of Translational Research in the Breast Cancer Now Toby Robins Research Centre in 2004. Currently, he is the Breast Cancer Research Team Leader at the Biomedical Research Centre and leader of the Endocrinology Team in the Breast Cancer Now Breast Cancer Centre.
Professor Mitch Dowsett received, amongst other awards, the William McGuire Memorial Lectureship in 2007 and the Susan G. Komen Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in 2014. He was a Senior Investigator at the National Institute of Health Research between 2009 and 2017 and has been a Senior Investigator at the Emeritus National Institute of Health Research since 2017.
His main scientific interests have, for many years, related to the endocrine basis of the majority of breast cancers. This ranges from trying to better understand the importance of hormones as effectors of a variety of epidemiological risk factors (e.g. obesity, early/late childbirth) and their potential for evaluating risk in healthy women, to understanding the mechanisms of response and resistance to oestrogen deprivation in the treatment of breast cancer.
As such, he played a central role with in the clinical development of aromatase inhibitors, which are now widely accepted to be the most effective endocrine agents for postmenopausal women. His interest in the pharmacodynamics of endocrine treatment led to widespread use of the nuclear proliferation marker Ki67 in pre-surgical studies for evaluating new drugs.
He views the pre-surgical setting as being uniquely informative for the in vivo study of breast cancer biology and new therapeutic strategies. To achieve this, he has been involved as a biological leader of many clinical trials. Examples include the recent completed POETIC study, and the POETIC-A trial starting in 2020.
His current, or recent senior committee memberships include:
• Executive Committee of Breast International Group, 2007-14
• Inaugural chairmanship of the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Biomarker and Imaging Clinical Study Group, 2006 to 2011
• Special Awards Committee of American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)
• NCRI Breast Clinical Study Group
• Scientific Chairman of Aromatase, 2010
• Improving Care and Knowledge Through Translational Research (IMPAKT), 2011
• Chairman of the Aromatase Inhibitor Overview Group
• Inaugural chairman of the first two UK-Interdisciplinary Breast Cancer Symposia, 2018 and 2020
• Executive Committee of several clinical trials: ATAC (now LATTE), HERA, POETIC, FACE, SoFEA, IBIS II and Chair of the Translational Subcommittees of each of these.
He is a passionate advocate of the need for standardised, well-validated assays for biomarkers in the clinical management of breast cancer, and is on the Steering Committee for ASCO/CAP guidelines for HER2 and steroid receptor measurements.
He is also Co-Chairman of the International Ki67 in Breast Cancer Working Party. His work with the TransATAC tissue collection was instrumental in the comprehensive comparison of multigene panels for breast cancer prognosis and for their approval for widespread use in the NHS.
In addition to this tissue-based research, for many years he has led a pre-clinical research team focussed on assessing the value of multiple new drugs for combination with endocrine agents and used a wide range of laboratory model systems to do so.