2022 Kathy Albain, MD Headshot ASCO Award

Chicago – (June 3, 2022) – Kathy S. Albain, MD, FACP, FASCO, will receive the 2022 Gianni Bonadonna Breast Cancer Award in recognition of her pioneering work in research and patient care and for her dedication to mentoring the researchers of tomorrow. Dr. Albain, the Huizenga Family Endowed Chair in Oncology Research, professor of Medicine at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, and Loyola Medicine medical oncologist, will receive the award and deliver a lecture at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncologists (ASCO), the leading professional organization for cancer researchers, here through June 7 at McCormick Place.

“I am humbled and honored to receive this award,” said Dr. Albain. “Dr. Bonadonna mentored me (and many others) and his foundational contributions to the discipline of Medical Oncology and scientifically rigorous team science saved thousands of lives,” she said.

The award recognizes an active clinical and/or translational researcher with a distinguished record of accomplishments to advance the field of breast cancer and with exceptional mentoring abilities. The recipient’s research should have had a practice-altering effect on the field of breast cancer diagnosis or treatment. The award also generously funds a research fellowship for an oncology trainee, who Dr. Albain will mentor.

Pioneering Research

Dr. Albain’s work has been instrumental in improving patient care and treatment outcomes, changing the standard of care, and educating the next generation of physician-scientists.

“Dr. Albain’s ground-breaking research has helped set standards and improve outcomes for patients,” said William Small, Jr., MD, FACRO, FACR, FASTRO, professor and chairman, department of Radiation Oncology, Stritch School of Medicine, and director, Loyola’s Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center. “As importantly, she continues to develop the next generation of researchers and physician-scientists who practice a team science approach to discovery,” he said.

Dr. Albain has applied the team science approach, where professionals from several disciplines collaborate, in National Cancer Institute (NCI) cooperative groups, particularly the Southwest Oncology Group (SWOG), where she is vice chair for Clinical Trials Partnerships. Dr. Albain and her various teams conduct clinical translational research in therapeutics, translational medicine (in cooperative group studies and at the Bernardin Cancer Center where the team studies breast cancer stem cells), cancer survivorship studies and health care outcomes, special populations, and equity research.

As a SWOG collaborator, Dr. Albain has led major trials in breast and lung cancer that have improved patient care and survival rates. Specifically, the SWOG S8814 (NCI Intergroup 0100) trial is likely one of Dr. Albain’s most influential research initiatives, providing new hypotheses to study and validate over many years. The trial proved its two hypotheses. First, it found that for postmenopausal women with node-positive, estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer, survival was better if patients received anthracycline-based chemotherapy and tamoxifen rather than tamoxifen alone, the standard of care at the time. In addition, Dr. Albain and her colleagues reported that survival was optimized when tamoxifen was given after cyclophosphamide, Adriamycin, and 5-fluorouracil rather than receiving the two treatments simultaneously.

Dr. Albain's team then looked at the biology of the tumor specimens collected in the S8814 trial and analyzed them for the 21-gene Recurrence Score (RS), with the hypothesis that not all patients required chemotherapy. The patients whose breast cancers had a low RS did not benefit from added chemotherapy, whereas those with a high score achieved improved survival outcomes. These discoveries prompted a National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN) trial (SWOG S1007; RxPONDER, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in late 2021 by one of Dr. Albain’s mentees, Kevin Kalinsky, MD, director of the Glenn Family Breast Center at the Winship Cancer Institute at Atlanta’s Emory University). “Our S8814 trial outcomes were validated in this large, prospective study, which was very gratifying," Dr. Albain said. "Scores of postmenopausal patients with 1-3 positive lymph nodes can safely avoid chemotherapy," she noted, as long as the RS were low.

Additionally, a number of investigations on tumor biology and radiation efficacy were conducted on SWOG S8814 specimens. RxPONDER will continue to follow patients for many years, which will translate into more insights and a number of translational medicine projects.

Unique Career

A simultaneous interest in patient care and research in breast and lung cancer has set Dr. Albain apart from her colleagues throughout her career. This dual focus likely emanated from Dr. Albain’s college days. Enrolled at Wheaton College (Wheaton, Illinois), as a pipe organ major, Dr. Albain’s love of science prompted her to take chemistry as an elective freshman year. From this elective, her interest in science and then medicine evolved and flourished. She pursued training in medical oncology and has dedicated her career at Loyola to breast and lung cancer because she was fascinated by the research possibilities to improve patient care. A number of key mentors guided Dr. Albain's career development in those early years.

Mentoring Tomorrow’s Physician-Scientists
Dr. Albain walks in the footsteps of these mentors, including Dr. Gianni Bonadonna, not just practicing team science but also as she trains the next generation of researchers and physician-scientists. “I am so proud that many of my mentees have since become collaborators and now are mentors of others, while publishing important research of their own,” she said.

She has been honored by peers within and beyond her organization. Dr. Albain received Loyola’s Stritch Medal, recognizing outstanding accomplishments of a Loyola graduate or faculty member who demonstrates a dedication to research, education, and patient care. She completed a Department of Defense Special Sabbatical and received the Susan G. Komen Professor of Survivorship award.

About Stritch School of Medicine

Founded in 1909, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine is one of only four Catholic-affiliated medical schools in the nation. With Loyola Medicine (a member of Trinity Health), its academic medical center partner, Stritch clinical and basic science faculty help train the next generation of physicians and scientists. Stritch has four, focused research institutes: the Burn and Shock Trauma Research Institute, Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Cardiovascular Research Institute, and the Infectious Disease & Immunology Research Institute as well as its Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics & Healthcare Leadership and the Center for Community and Global Health. Learn more about Stritch, “like” us at facebook.com/StritchMedicine, or follow us on Twitter @LoyolaHSC.

About Loyola Medicine

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a nationally ranked academic, quaternary care system based in Chicago's western suburbs. The three-hospital system includes Loyola University Medical Center, Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital, as well as convenient locations offering primary care, specialty care and immediate care services from more than 1,800 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. Loyola is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its academic affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Established in 1961, Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with the Judd A. Weinberg Emergency Department, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research Facility at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center. MacNeal is a 374-licensed-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced medical, surgical and psychiatric services, acute rehabilitation, an inpatient skilled nursing facility and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. For more information, visit loyolamedicine.org. You can also follow Loyola Medicine on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.