October 8, 1999

Cancer foundation lauds VUMC’s page for contributions to diagnosing risk

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Dr. Louis Rosenfeld

Cancer foundation lauds VUMC's page for contributions to diagnosing risk

Dr. David L. Page, professor of Pathology and Preventive Medicine, has been honored by the Susan G. Komen Foundation for his profound contributions to the understanding and definition of breast cancer risk.

Page, a member of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, received the Komen Foundation's Award for Scientific Distinction at the organization's annual luncheon in Dallas on Oct. 4.

"David's recognition of the importance of developing definable, reproducible diagnostic criteria and melding them with superlative epidemiologic studies has literally produced a revolution in our definition and classification of breast disease," said Dr. Roy A. Jensen, associate professor of Pathology. Jensen is a member of the board of the Nashville Komen Foundation and one of Page's Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center collaborators.

When Page's work began in the 1970s, it was unclear what specific histologic findings in the breast were associated with increased risk of breast cancer. There was much controversy in the literature because precise and reproducible definitions did not exist – a problem compounded by the lack of large available studies, Jensen said.

Page overcame these challenges by developing precise criteria for diagnosing the spectrum of breast changes from benign to premalignant to malignant and combining these definitions with state-of-the-art epidemiologic methods. His subsequent collaboration with William D. DuPont, professor of Preventive Medicine, to analyze breast biopsies of more than 10,000 Nashville-area women led to a 1985 paper that Jensen says remains the benchmark by which others papers in the field are measured.

"These studies showed that the vast majority of women undergoing a breast biopsy have no more risk for breast cancer than women in the general population, and that the idea that fibrocystic changes in the breast indicate an increased risk of breast cancer is clearly not correct," Jensen said. "This single finding has provided great relief to literally hundreds of thousands of women. Every women who has had a breast biopsy since 1985 has been directly impacted by the implications of his work.

"It is doubtful that any other individual in the field of breast research could make such a claim."

Page obtained his medical degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1966 and subsequently completed his residency and fellowship training at Vanderbilt, Massachusetts General Hospital, the National Institutes of Health and Johns Hopkins.

In 1972, he was appointed assistant professor of Pathology at Vanderbilt, where he has remained throughout his career. He served as director of the Vanderbilt Cancer Center from 1977-1982.

Page is a member of numerous professional associations, including the American Joint Commission on Cancer, the International Association for Breast Cancer Research, and the International Academy of Pathology. He has served since 1989 as chairman of the Breast Pathology Committee of the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group. Page has published more than 250 articles and presented hundreds of lectures about his research to scientists throughout the world.

The Dallas-based Komen Foundation, established in 1982, is dedicated to eradicating breast cancer as a life-threatening disease. In its 17 years, the Foundation has raised more than $90 million for breast cancer research, education, screening and treatment, and it has become the largest private funder of research dedicated solely to breast cancer. n