RTOG Foundation New Investigator Spotlight: Dr. Naamit Kurshan Gerber
December 19, 2022
Naamit Kurshan Gerber, MD, was recently selected as an RTOG Foundation New Investigator Spotlight due to her various accomplishments and ongoing efforts in the oncology community. Dr. Geber is an associate professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the Perlmutter Cancer Center of the NYU Langone Medical Center. She specializes in the treatment of breast cancer and lymphoma and is actively involved in research focused on improving outcomes for women with early-stage breast cancer. Additionally, she serves on the NRG Oncology Breast Cancer Local Regional Subcommittee, the Breast Scientific Program and Education Committees for the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO), is a senior editor for breast cancer and editor of the Morbidity and Mortality Column at Practical Radiation Oncology (PRO), and serves as the Program Director of the NYU Radiation Oncology Residency Program.
Q: What kind of research are you currently engaged with?
A: Dr. Gerber’s clinical and research focus is breast cancer and hematologic malignancies, with the goal of reducing radiation toxicity in both of these areas. She is currently leading two Investigator Initiated Trials with this objective in mind. The first is a randomized placebo-controlled trial of a caffeine-based cream to reduce radiation toxicity, specifically implant loss and capsular contracture, in women who have undergone mastectomy with tissue-expander based reconstruction. The second is a phase II trial investigating VMAT (volumetric modulated arc therapy) in patients with hematologic malignancies who require total body irradiation (TBI). This trial, developed in collaboration with colleagues in medical physics, is leveraging a technology frequently used in other malignancies to improve the therapeutic ration of total body irradiation with the goal of reducing toxicity, specifically rates of idiopathic pneumonia syndrome after TBI. Additionally, she is interested in examining ways to lower the burden of therapy for various groups of patients. For example, she has researched the omission of radiation and/or endocrine therapy in stage I hormone receptor positive patients, as well as the use of shorter radiation schedules in different groups of patients with early stage breast cancer in whom hypofractionation has been controversial such as women with connective tissue disease or women requiring reirradiation for recurrent breast cancer.
Q: What is your proudest accomplishment so far in regard to your research/career?
A: Being able to get my placebo-controlled trial of a caffeine-based cream to reduce radiation toxicity off the ground. This was truly a bench-to-beside process as the trial started when the PI of a study that showed reduced radiation fibrosis in mice treated with an adenosine antagonist came to my clinic to share his results. He argued very persuasively that this concept was worth bringing from the pre-clinical to the clinical space. It took 3 years to design the trial which involved figuring out a way to develop a topical formulation with an adenosine antagonist (caffeine), working with biostatistics to refine endpoints and study design, and building collaborations with my colleagues in plastic surgery and surgical oncology. Was very excited to start accruing and looking forward to results.
Q: What are you most interested in achieving through your research/career?
A: Mitigating radiation toxicity using novel therapeutics and technology
Q: What inspired you to become involved in cancer research and/or specifically your field?
A: I am always seeking to improve outcomes for my patients. As a clinician-investigator, many of my research questions come out of specific patient interactions and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work to improve care for my patients.
Q: What has been your experience engaging in the Radiation Oncology community and with RTOGF?
A: I have served on the NRG breast local regional committee for the past 3 years and have loved being involved in clinical trial design with a community of thoughtful and committed investigators. It has been great building collaborations with other investigators.