A novel approach to better predicting breast cancer risk using mammography and collaborations
How do you calculate risk for breast cancer? Dr Kevin Nguyen from the University of Melbourne is developing better predictors of breast cancer risk, establishing novel ways of interpreting mammograms.
Mammography is used for screening and diagnosing breast cancer; yet the process also offers further untapped potential for breast cancer control. There is information within a mammogram that could predict the risk of breast cancers.
Mammography density has conventionally been defined as the white or bright areas on a mammogram. To date, mammography density is known to be one of the strongest risk factors of breast cancer. Dr Nguyen’s research is refining this approach to provide a more specific predictor for breast cancer risk.
“I consistently found that it is the brighter or brightest regions, not the white areas, that are better at predicting the risk of breast cancer,” Dr Nguyen said.
Award enables in-depth collaboration and detailed findings
In 2017, Dr Nguyen was awarded the Picchi Award for Excellence in Cancer Research – Population Health, for his study into mammographic density. The award provided Dr Nguyen with the opportunity to extend his study and develop in-depth collaborations.
“I see myself as an independent researcher and with the support of the Picchi Award, I have been able to achieve that,” Dr Nguyen said.
Across Asia, there is a growing epidemic of breast cancer, similar to that of Western countries in the last century. The Picchi Award prize has enabled Dr Nguyen to partner with colleagues in Vietnam and Korea, thereby broadening the available data to test the novel measure and understand the risk factor.
Beyond the novel approach and establishing protocols
Findings from Dr Nguyen’s study has secured recent grants from philanthropic and government funding bodies.
Researchers from the US, Malaysia and Korea have asked Dr Nguyen to apply his new measures to their own studies, and leading breast cancer specialist Professor Jack Cuzick and colleagues from the UK presented these ideas at the 8th International Breast Densitometry and Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Workshop in San Francisco last year.
Mammography density is not routinely measured by radiologists; there is enormous potential to apply Dr Nguyen’s novel measure to greatly improve the effectiveness of breast screening and improve risk prediction.
Nominate for a Picchi Award
“Winning the Picchi Award was a great boost to my career and self-confidence,” Dr Nguyen said.
“Just like applying for a grant, applying for the Picchi Award has helped me clarify my plans and initiate the next steps towards building on my PhD.”
Mammographic density specialists (from left): Mr Chris Evans (Research Assistant), Dr Kevin Nguyen (Cancer Council Victoria Postdoctoral Research Fellow), and Mr Jack Trinh (Research Assistant), Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics, the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne.
Mammographic density research team members (from left): Mr Shuai Li (PhD candidate), Mr Jack Trinh (Research Assistant), Professor John Hopper (Mentor and Leader of the Research Team), and Dr Kevin Nguyen (Cancer Council Victoria Postdoctoral Research Fellow), Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics, the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne.
Learn more about the Picchi Awards for Excellence in Cancer Research and previous recipients in our short video about the importance of the awards.
The 2018 Picchi Awards for Excellence in Cancer Research - closes Friday 4 May 2018 (extended to COB Friday 25 May).