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UNC Doctor Awarded 2012 Susan G. Komen for the Cure® Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Clinical Research

December 10, 2012

Chapel Hill- Hyman B. Muss, M.D. of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center is being honored for his critical contributions to the treatment of breast cancer, in particular the treatment of breast cancer in older women. Dr. Muss was given the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Clinical Research at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium on December 5th. His work on clinical trials specifically targeted to older women has provided the foundation for offering geriatric patients state-of-the art treatments and has had a significant impact on the standard of care and quality of life for elderly women with breast cancer.

Dr. Muss became interested in breast cancer early in his career, which now spans more than 40 years. Some of his early endeavors explored fundamental principles of breast cancer biology, and included studies on estrogen receptor expression, HER2 expression, and cell cycle progression of breast cancer cells. Other work from Dr. Muss’ early career focused on disparities in access to breast cancer treatment, where he stratified patients by race, socioeconomic status and age.    

Dr. Muss has led several important clinical trials testing adjuvant chemotherapy and endocrine therapy options, including letrozole and tamoxifen, for early-stage and metastatic breast cancer.  In 1992, he and his colleagues found that there was no difference in treatment outcome in women of different age groups with metastatic breast cancer.  This finding suggested that geriatric patients should not be excluded, based on age alone, from clinical trials involving chemotherapy for advanced breast cancer, and catapulted Dr. Muss into the field of geriatric oncology.  Since that seminal work, Dr. Muss has become a national leader in geriatric and breast oncology research, and has developed and been PI of multiple clinical and translational clinical trials specifically targeted to older women with breast cancer, including a CALGB trial that compared standard with oral chemotherapy in older women with early stage breast cancer. 

 Throughout his career, Dr. Muss has worked to define the molecular factors that predict which patients with early-stage breast cancer will derive the greatest benefits from chemotherapy or hormone therapy, with a focus on the elderly.  He is a strong proponent of an integrated approach to determine the best course of treatment for older patients that factors in each individual's functional status and any existing non-cancer illnesses and carefully monitors how the therapies affect the woman's functioning and quality of life to ensure the highest quality of cancer care for older patients.  With his colleague, Dr. Ned Sharpless, he is currently exploring the role of biomarkers of aging and their potential role as predictors of toxicity and survival in women with breast cancer.  

Dr. Muss is Professor of Medicine and the Director of the Geriatric Oncology Program at University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, and co-chairs the Alliance (previously Cancer and Leukemia Group B) CALGB Committee on Cancer in the Elderly.  He earned his M.D. from the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in Bronx, New York in 1968. Dr. Muss continued his medical training at Peter Brent Brigham Hospital, Children's Hospital Medical Center and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Mass. He also served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam where he was awarded the Bronze Star medal.  

Dr. Muss’ research brought attention to the issues specific to elderly breast cancer patients and has advanced the clinical care of this special population of patients.  His work is improving the lives of countless women every year, and his impact on the breast cancer community will be felt for years to come.  


About Susan G. Komen for the Cure® and the Komen North Carolina Triangle to the Coast Affiliate

The Komen North Carolina Triangle to the Coast Affiliate serves 29 counties in central and eastern North Carolina; holding two annual Race for the Cure events in Raleigh and Wilmington. Seventy-five percent of the net proceeds generated by the Affiliate stay in the service area. In 2012, $1.1 million was distributed to 19 service agencies to provide a continuum of breast health services to underinsured and uninsured women in our service area. The remaining twenty-five percent funds national breast cancer research; the Affiliate contributed $400,000 in 2012. That same year, $2.4 was returned to the area in the form of research grants at Duke and the University of North Carolina. For more information, call 919-493-2873 or visit

About the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® Brinker Awards for Scientific Distinction

Established by the Susan G. Komen for the Cure in 1992, the Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction recognizes leading scientists for significant work in advancing research concepts and for clinical application in the fields of breast cancer research, screening or treatment. The award is presented to basic and clinical researchers who have made seminal advances in the fight against breast cancer.  In addition, the award recognizes scholars for a specific contribution, a consistent pattern of contributions, or leadership in the field that has had a substantial impact on the fight against breast cancer.