by Tom O’Connor, UNMC public relations
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following story originally appeared in the Fall 2009 edition of UNMC Discover.
Julia Bridge, M.D., has a unique skill set that makes her a true Sherlock Holmes in the pathology world.
She specializes in analyzing bone and soft tissue tumors, and she’s one of the best in the world.
A professor of pathology and microbiology at UNMC, Dr. Bridge will be honored next year by Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York for her contributions to advance knowledge of human cancer. She will receive the prestigious Fred W. Stewart Award, which honors a top pathologist each year.
“Cancer cytogenetics is one of the foundations of our growing understanding of human cancer that is driving improved diagnosis and therapy,” said Marc Ladanyi, M.D., chief of MSKCC’s Molecular Diagnostics Service in the department of pathology. “Through her career-long effort in this area, Dr. Bridge has not only put UNMC on the map, she has made it a world capital in this field.”
There are more than 100 different types of bone and soft tissue cancers and many types exhibit overlapping clinical, radiographic and microscopic features, so making the correct diagnosis is challenging.
New genetic findings — at least 40 of which have been discovered by Dr. Bridge and her laboratory team — allow pathologists to more precisely identify and classify these tumors.
“Once we know the exact type of cancer, the clinician can provide the most appropriate therapy with the highest chance of delivering a successful outcome,” she said.
One tumor-specific genetic change identified by Dr. Bridge’s team is the 12;22 rearrangement in clear cell sarcoma.
“Cancer cytogenetics is one of the foundations of our growing understanding of human cancer that is driving improved diagnosis and therapy. … Dr. Bridge has not only put UNMC on the map, she has made it a world capital in this field.”-Marc Ladanyi, M.D.
This cancer may appear clinically and microscopically identical to the deadly skin cancer malignant melanoma. Recognition of this molecular marker has become fundamental in differentiating it from malignant melanoma.
Dr. Bridge’s team tries to identify additional markers of diagnostic and prognostic importance and develop more rational classification schemes that will impact clinical management and therapy election.
“We’re looking at the underlying genetic changes and the molecular consequences of those changes,” she said. “Many tumors have a characteristic genetic change that is exclusive to that tumor.
“Once we recognize this change, it’s like a domino effect. We can then specifically target these genes as well as other genes further down the pathway.”
Date Published: Thursday, December 31, 2009