Avera Cancer Institute

Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Vice President of Molecular and Experimental Research, Avera Cancer Institute
Director, The Darwin Foundation

Research

Dr. Leyland-Jones is best known for leading major changes in breast cancer clinical trials and treatments, as well as his ongoing focus on how genomics plays a vital role in the fight against breast cancer.

When conducting genomics research and developing personalized treatments for cancer patients, biomarkers are key. Because these distinct biological indicators are so important, there is a growing and urgent need for biomarker profiling and validation in the cancer research community. As the Director of the Darwin Foundation (formerly the Consortium for Clinical Diagnostics), Dr. Leyland-Jones is partnering with scientists at research institutions and biopharmaceutical companies who are dedicated to facilitating genomic research and diagnostics. The Darwin Foundation provides a centralized infrastructure where disease genes and genetic signatures can be identified and validated. The Darwin Foundation also develops medical response tests, as well as new and improved diagnostic tests for a variety of diseases, including cancers.

Throughout his career, Dr. Leyland-Jones helped develop drugs that are now mainstays of oncologic breast cancer treatment (such as the anthracycline, antimetabolite and platin families), as well as the targeted therapies trastuzumab (Herceptin®) and bevacizumab (Avastin®). He also helped disprove some theories about how to best treat breast cancer patients. For example, he demonstrated that two years of adjuvant trastuzumab was no better than the standard one year of treatment for women with HER2-positive, early-stage breast cancer.
Additionally, Dr. Leyland-Jones helped drive global collaboration and material collections as a member of the Executive Steering Committee of the Tissue Bank Consortium in Asia that was founded and operated by NFCR.

Bio

Brian Leyland-Jones, BSc (Ist class Hons), MB BS, PhD, FRACP, FRCPC is the Chief Medical Officer and Scientific Advisory Board Member for the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) and Chief Scientific Officer of The Darwin Foundation.   He also serves as the Chief Medical Officer of OTraces, Xylonix and the N OF 1 Mission, collectively devoted to the implementation of prevention and cure of malignancy globally.  He sits on several national and international boards including the Asian Foundation for Cancer Research (AFCR), NED Biosystems, Non-Pareil, Ratio and is Director Emeritus for the WIN Consortium.  He founded Xanthus, AKESOgen and Viviphi.

Dr.  Leyland-Jones holds biochemistry, medical, and doctoral degrees from the University of London. Following residency training at Hammersmith, Brompton, St. Bartholomew’s and London hospitals, he completed a clinical pharmacology fellowship at Cornell University and a medical oncology fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He then joined the academic staff at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and New York Hospitals with a special research interest in Early Phase clinical, clinical pharmacological and biomarker evaluation of many anticancer compounds, including the platinums and anthracycline analogs in use today. In 1983, he moved to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to head the Developmental Chemotherapy section. During his time with the NCI, he was responsible for the overall development of approximately 70 anti-cancer compounds in various stages of transition from in-vitro screening to Phase III clinical trials, including overseeing the early development of paclitaxel in Phase 1 and 2 trials. From 1990 to 2000, he served as founding chair of Oncology and director of the McGill University Comprehensive Cancer Centre. He recruited and built a broad multifaceted cancer centre, including a robust cross-hospital clinical trials enterprise, with deep clinical pharmacologic and biomarker support. Dr. Leyland-Jones continued as the Minda de Gunzberg Chair in Oncology and professor of medicine at McGill University in Montreal, Canada for 7 additional years, focusing on the development and biomarker strategies of several of the new targeted oncologic agents.

He joined Emory University in 2007. As Director of the Winship Cancer Centre and Associate Vice-President of Health Sciences, Dr. Leyland-Jones lead the Centre to obtain National Cancer Institute Cancer Centre Designation, the first in the State of Georgia, and for the first time in 30 years.  Dr. Leyland-Jones was instrumental in building the Genomics Medicine Program at the Avera Cancer Institute in Sioux Falls, SD where he was the Vice President of Molecular and Experimental Medicine from 2014-2019.   Dr. Leyland-Jones’ principal academic contributions have been in the fields of anticancer therapy development, the pharmacodynamics, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacogenetics of oncological clinical trials, the translation of preclinical models into the clinic, biomarker endpoints in Phase I/II clinical trials, and screening and mechanistic studies of novel targeted and chemotherapeutic anticancer agents.

Dr. Leyland-Jones is the recipient of numerous research grants, and has served as principal, co-principal and co-investigator on more than 100 clinical studies. He has authored and co-authored more than 210 peer-reviewed articles and book contributions, 25 books and book chapters, 425 abstracts and 35 patents.  He has a robust speaking and private consulting practice that takes him all over the world.

Related Content

Pancreatic Cancer: Warnings and Wellness

NFCR Chief Medical Officer Shares His Expertise for Improved Pancreatic Cancer Awareness The National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR)’s Dr. Brian Leyland-Jones contributed to the popular online platform Eat This, Not That!’s feature in efforts to spread awareness of one of the most deadly and difficult to detect cancers: 11 Warning Signs of Pancreatic Cancer. Dr. Leyland-Jones’ career spans decades, and has led him to become an authority within the pancreatic cancer-fighting community. Dr. Leyland Jones serves as Board Member and Chief Medical Officer for NFCR, offering his extensive expertise to NFCR’s fundraising missions. Boasting over 100 million readers, Eat This, Not That! publishes expert- and research-backed tips on food, nutrition, and health. Dr. Leyland-Jones’ tips on pancreatic cancer awareness help strengthen the deep catalogue of recipes, diet recommendations, and general wellness tips on the popular online platform. Warning Signs Early detection is crucial for early intervention with pancreatic cancer. The disease has an overall five-year survival rate of just 9% and is likely to rise to become the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. by the year 2030. These facts, coupled with pancreatic cancer’s significant reputation as one of the silent killers, showcase the importance of knowing these 11 warning signs: Blood Clots Ascites Jaundice Sudden Weight Loss Upper Abdominal Pain Depression and Anxiety (Before Diagnosis) Nausea and Vomiting Diabetes Pale Feces and Dark Urine Enlarged Gallbladder or Liver Unexplainable Fatigue Outside of these symptoms, Dr. Leyland-Jones emphasizes the importance of keeping up-to-date on your yearly physicals, stating, “It is very difficult to detect early. For yearly physicals, some people also get PET scans and CT scans. However, the progression is so fast, these kinds of scans would need to be done every six months.” With approximately 60,000 new cases per year, pancreatic cancer will continue to be a significant concern. Know these warning signs and keep up with day-to-day wellness and yearly physicals in order to stay on top of your health!   Did you know that November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month? Subscribe to NFCR social media channels to stay up to date on the latest developments in the fight against pancreatic cancer. You can also visit our donation page to join in our fundraising efforts! Additional Reads You May Enjoy: Thunder God Vine: A Powerful Discovery for Pancreatic Cancer Patients 5 Tips for Eating Healthy While Traveling Coping With Cancer—It’s Different for Everyone Receive our monthly e-newsletter and blogs featuring stories of inspiration, support resources, cancer prevention tips and more. Sign up here. 

Life Happens Quickly: Aly’s Story

As we grow older, we learn to understand that life happens quickly. Aly Newel learned just how quickly things could happen when she was screened for, diagnosed with, and received breast cancer treatment, all within 22 days. After losing her mother to breast cancer, Aly devotedly underwent her mammograms as recommended since turning 30 years old. In early 2016, she suddenly realized that she had missed her annual appointment by nearly six months. She quickly made an appointment, not thinking too much about the lapse as everything felt normal.  “My general practitioner told me that the test had detected abnormal cells in my left breast and that she was referring me to a surgeon,” Aly shared. “It wasn’t more than a couple of days before I was with the breast surgeon in absolute shock at how quickly this had happened. With everything that happened with my mom, I was scared.” Aly soon received the biopsy results that quickly filled her with dread as she learned she had breast cancer. Luckily, the ductal carcinoma in-situ was in the early stages and completely treatable.  “I was stunned,” Aly reflected. “How can he have just told me that I have breast cancer, yet it is curable? Honestly, it took me a while to get my head around that.” Before she could fully wrap her head around the news, Aly had a hook wire insertion and lumpectomy.  “These operations sound really scary, but they aren’t at all,” Aly said. “The surgeon came to see me after the operation and told me that everything had gone really well and that the cancer was gone.” Aly felt amazing – pain-free and thrilled to be rid of the nasty disease. She had zero pain and only a little scar on her left breast for which to remember the whirlwind experience. With just a single dose of radiotherapy, she closed this scary yet short chapter.  “I would like to share my story because as a mother of two daughters, I feel that it’s really important to promote early detection by encouraging women to become familiar with the regular feel of their breasts and participate in the screening programs that they are eligible for,” Aly stated. “I also think it’s important for people to realize that being diagnosed with breast cancer doesn’t necessarily have a bad outcome if it’s found early.” Life happens quickly, and sometimes it is easy to forget the small steps that make a big difference – like scheduling regular mammograms. Luckily, the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) has you covered. Follow NFCR on social media or check out our Cancer-Fighting Lifestyle Tips to keep you and your loved ones safe.  Additional Reads You May Enjoy: Let’s talk about Mammograms with Dr. Alexia Matheson Don’t Delay: Skipping One Mammogram Can Significantly Increase Risk of Death from Breast Cancer Mastectomy and Breast Reconstruction: What Breast Cancer Patients Should Know   Stay connected with the cancer community! Receive NFCR’s monthly e-newsletter and blogs featuring stories of inspiration, support resources, cancer prevention tips, and more. Sign up here.

Don’t Delay: Skipping One Mammogram Can Significantly Increase Risk of Death from Breast Cancer

One mammogram every two years doesn’t sound so bad – but what happens if a woman skips one? A recent study warns that missing just one mammogram before being diagnosed with cancer significantly increases a woman’s probability of dying from the disease.  The Importance of Mammograms Mammograms allow medical professionals to examine an x-ray of the breast tissue and look for any abnormalities or hints of cancer that other methods may not be able to detect. Having regularly scheduled mammograms presents an opportunity for early diagnosis, which significantly increases the ability to administer successful treatment. As signs and symptoms are often difficult to observe at early stages, mammograms have been the gold standard used for cancer detection and may reduce mortality by up to 40%. Because of this, the United States Preventative Services Task Force recommends that women aged 50-74 undergo a mammography every two years. Alarming Study Results In this ground-breaking study, a research team led by Stephen W. Duffy and Laszlo Tabar analyzed data from nearly 550,000 women with access to mammograms between 1992 and 2016. This data was divided into two groups – women who attended the two of the most recent mammograms before being diagnosed with breast cancer and those who did not.  The team discovered that the group who did not attend the two most recent mammograms before their diagnosis were more likely to have died within ten years of being diagnosed. The significant findings showed that 50% more of these group members had died than those who attended both most recent appointments. Overall, women who attended only one of the two breast cancer screenings had 29% higher mortality than those who attended both. While the research team anticipated a higher mortality rate among women who missed even one mammogram before their diagnosis, the disparity was astounding. As researchers unveil more evidence to highlight the importance of mammograms, however, medical professionals continue to identify a decrease in the number of women who undertake regular screenings. Tragically, the COVID-19 pandemic has also caused a significant decline in the number of women attending their regular mammograms.  What Next? Duffy, Laszlo, and their team hope their recent findings will inspire women to keep up-to-date with their mammogram appointments and plan to continue further prognostic research into the mechanisms of this effect. The team will explore to what extent regular attendance improves the prognosis of interval cancers and screen-detected cancers.  While the world eagerly awaits the following report, women must continue adhering to the current mammogram recommendations. Those with questions regarding their personal situation and recommendations should speak to their general practitioner.  For more information regarding breast cancer, please visit NFCR’s breast cancer page.  Note: The third Friday in October we recognize National Mammography Day. This year it will be celebrated on October 15, 2021. Please take this opportunity to schedule your mammogram or share important information with loved ones. Additional Reads You May Enjoy: Let’s talk about Mammograms with Dr. Alexia Matheson National Mammography Day 5 Ways You Can Show Support for Breast Cancer Patients Stay connected with the cancer community! Receive NFCR’s monthly e-newsletter and blogs featuring stories of inspiration, support resources, cancer prevention tips, and more. Sign up here.