Dr. Couch presented his Outstanding Investigator Award for Breast Cancer Research lecture, “Decoding Breast Cancer Predisposition Genes,” on Dec. 9, at the 2016 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.
The AACR Outstanding Investigator Award for Breast Cancer Research recognizes an investigator of no more than 50 years of age whose novel and significant work has had or may have a far-reaching impact on the etiology, detection, diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of breast cancer. Such work may involve any discipline across the continuum of biomedical research, including basic, translational, clinical, and epidemiological studies.
Dr. Couch is the Zbigniew and Anna M. Scheller Professor of Medical Research and Chair of the Division of Experimental Pathology in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus. He was honored for his seminal work in identifying the inherited genes and mutations that predispose individuals to breast cancer. Much of his research has focused on determining the clinical relevance of inherited variants of uncertain significance in breast cancer predisposition genes using genetic epidemiology and molecular biology approaches.
A distinguished national leader in cancer genetics, Dr. Couch is a founder and member of the Evidence-based Network for the Interpretation of Germline Mutant Alleles consortium, and a leader in the BRCA Challenge and the Prospective Registry of Multiplex Testing initiatives aimed at understanding alterations in cancer predisposition genes. He is also a co-founder of the Consortium of Investigators of Modifiers of BRCA1/2, a Triple Negative Breast Cancer Consortium; and he is a long-term member of the Breast Cancer Association Consortium.
Working with members of these consortia, Dr. Couch has led genome-wide association studies to identify common genetic variants that influence risk of estrogen receptor negative and triple negative breast cancer and modify risks of breast cancer among carriers of germline BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations.
In more recent research, Dr. Couch has been working to estimate risks of breast cancer associated with pathogenic variants identified by clinical genetic testing using multigene panels, and he is leading an effort to identify genetic factors that account for the missing heritability of breast cancer.