Innovative tech used in research leads to breakthrough in understanding breast cancer

Dr. Robert Clarke of The Hormel Institute publishes research in top journal Nature Communications

September 25, 2020 (Austin, Minn.) – Dr. Robert Clarke, executive director of The Hormel Institute University of Minnesota, is one of five cancer researchers who collaborated to publish discoveries derived from using innovative “radiogenomics” in the top journal Nature Communications.

Dr. Clarke along with Drs. Ming Fan, Pingping Xia, Yue Wang and Lihua Li collaborated in the research article “Radiogenomic signatures reveal multiscale intratumor heterogeneity associated with biological functions and survival in breast cancer.”

The article describes the importance of studying different, distinguishable parts or features of breast tumors. The research group used the fast-evolving technology of radiogenomics, an innovative approach that uses imaging technology linked to the genetic profiles of tumors, to provide a non-invasive means to predict a breast cancer patient’s future outcome.

Their research helped identify specific imaging features or signatures and led to discoveries in prediction of tumor genomic alterations and that biological functions in tumors drove breast cancer patient outcomes. This method of precision medicine provides greater knowledge of the tumor genetic profile and is significant because it can help open the door to new therapies for how oncologists treat cancer patients. Normally insight into the tumor genome requires a biopsy- an invasive procedure, whereas radiogenomics is non-invasive.

“This study using radiogenomics is exciting because data such as this can provide potentially lifesaving information in predicting outcomes and directing treatments for breast cancer patients,” said Dr. Robert Clarke, executive director of The Hormel Institute.

“Understanding the landscape of a tumor and its composition can enable a more directed intervention for individual patients and could lead to the development of new therapies, all with the ultimate goal in mind which is to extend a patient’s life.”

The authors would like to thank the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Natural Science Foundation of Zhejiang Province of China, the US Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program and the US National Institutes of Health for funding this study.  Dr. Clarke would like to give special acknowledgement to The Hormel Foundation for its generous support to The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota.

Nature Communications is an online only journal. The DOI for this paper is 10.1038/s41467-020-18703-2.   The article is available to view online at