The research interests of Tina J. Hieken, M.D., are diverse and include translational and clinical investigations focused on breast cancer and melanoma. Dr. Hieken's research interests include investigating the relationship between the microbiome of breast tissue and other body niches with the immune microenvironment, as well as translational and clinical investigations of novel therapies, approaches and technologies to improve cancer outcomes for patients with breast cancer and melanoma.
- Understanding the role of the microbiome; particularly the microbiome of body tissues and its interaction with the immune system, cancer risk, disease progression and treatment response
- Developing biomarkers of risk prediction and establishing a foundation for novel approaches to breast cancer prevention such as probiotics, prebiotics and vaccines
- Using novel therapeutic approaches and advanced imaging modalities to facilitate individualized and improved surgical management of patients with breast cancer and melanoma
- Leading clinical trials utilizing new, efficacious targeted immunotherapies prior to operation in patients with node-positive melanoma to improve cancer outcomes and to understand the biology underlying treatment response
Significance to patient care
Breast cancer and melanoma are significant public health challenges and the emotional and physical toll of surgical treatment can be a substantial detriment to patient well-being, even when a favorable prognosis is expected. Strategies to individualize care, moving toward precision medicine, have the potential to target the best possible care to those patients most likely to benefit, while minimizing intrusive therapies and avoiding futile care.
Dr. Hieken's efforts to characterize new biome-based biomarkers to individualize breast cancer risk prediction have the potential to benefit hundreds of thousands of women at risk. This work could lead to novel strategies to decrease risk, and pathogenesis studies that might ensue from this work have the potential for major impacts on public health. Characterization of the molecular risk markers has value for breast cancer risk prediction and presents an opportunity for high-impact novel breast cancer prevention therapies, including novel pharmacological risk-reducing agents, probiotics, prebiotics and vaccines. Similarly, new approaches to deliver systemic treatment to high-risk melanoma patients may shift treatment paradigms and improve cancer outcomes in the near future.