Bhavika K. Patel, M.D.

  • Consultant, Department of Radiology
  • Associate Professor of Radiology, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science
  • Area of research: Breast cancer imaging

What sparked your interest in individualized medicine?

As a breast imaging radiologist, I am fortunate to be at the forefront of technical innovation and advances within breast cancer imaging. As a clinician, I have always been motivated to understand patients on an individual level and see each patient within their specific demographic, background and family history.

Recognizing that the future of medicine is focused on individual patients, I hope to add imaging-based biomarkers into risk and prognostic algorithms. Researchers have only begun to leverage the big data generated from and available within medical imaging. Imaging biomarkers represent a novel area of study and an opportunity to enhance risk-based, individualized imaging.

I am interested in enhancing diagnostic and predictive tools in the management of patients with breast cancer. I aspire to take a leadership role in performing and promoting translational research efforts at Mayo Clinic to accelerate the development of prognostic and predictive image-based biomarkers.

In developing such biomarkers, radiologists can help improve the diagnostic precision of breast cancer screening and treatment with current and future clinically based models. We can arm oncologists, surgeons and geneticists with information to create complementary prediction and prognostic models to more effectively tailor individualized breast cancer prevention and treatments.

What is your focus as a Gerstner Family Career Development Award recipient?

My research is aimed at improving the accuracy and precision of breast cancer imaging. Specifically, by incorporating risk-based models with advanced imaging methodologies, I am studying imaging biomarkers that can more effectively detect and predict residual disease in patients after they receive neoadjuvant therapy for breast cancer.

My goal is develop quantitative image analysis tools that will help identify patterns and metrics detectable on patients' contrast-enhanced imaging studies before, during and after treatment. The care team will then use these imaging biomarkers along with existing clinical biomarkers, which together will help guide individualized treatment strategies for patients with breast cancer.

How will your research improve patient care?

Personalized breast cancer imaging combined with complementary clinically based biomarkers will allow clinicians to find out earlier and more accurately whether a specific patient still has breast cancer after completing initial therapies such as chemotherapy or radiation, but before the patient undergoes surgery.

Identifying residual cancer after treatment will help clinicians accurately identify early which patients will have residual tumor disease after surgery and require additional therapy while sparing those patients who can skip additional treatments, or potentially avoid surgery altogether! It is my hope that these novel prognostic biomarkers can inform personalized therapies, thereby improving patients' quality of life and helping them avoid unnecessary treatments.

How has the Gerstner Family Career Development Award helped advance your research?

Research support from the Gerstner family has allowed me to identify a cohort of patients with breast cancer receiving care at Mayo Clinic's campus in Phoenix/Scottsdale, Arizona. Importantly for my project, these patients have undergone advanced imaging — including contrast-enhanced mammography (CEM) and MRI — prior to undergoing neoadjuvant treatment therapies at Mayo Clinic.

I have created a database of patient factors, including demographics, breast cancer subtype, size on imaging, receptor status and imaging dates. My team has developed a pipeline to annotate pre-treatment images on CEM and MRI and is in the process of creating prediction models based off training and test sets.

Why did you choose Mayo Clinic to explore research?

In addition to being able to provide high-quality breast imaging clinical care with the most advanced technologies at Mayo Clinic, I am embedded within a robust research network locally, at the enterprise level and nationally. With cross-functional expertise across imaging science, precision medicine, radiology, breast cancer and image analytic approaches, my colleagues and I have created a multidisciplinary collaborative team.

The team-focused work performed at Mayo Clinic is absolutely essential to perform the type of robust, translational clinical research required to stay at the innovative forefront of individualized breast cancer care.