Indiana Breast Cancer Researchers Receive $2,550,000 in Research Funding

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Susan G. Komen, the world’s leading breast cancer organization, today announced 2017 research funding of $30.7 million for 98 research grants, with a focus on new treatments and understanding of the most lethal forms and stages of breast cancer. 

Komen funding to institutions in 27 states and 7 countries also includes research into new screening technologies, treatments for metastatic and aggressive types of breast cancer and disparities in breast cancer outcomes. 

The grants include $2,550,000 in new funding for research at two institutions in Indiana, bringing Komen’s total research investment in Indiana to $29,638,931 since 1982.

“We are focused on new treatments, ways to overcome drug resistance in breast cancer patients, and a better understanding of how and why breast cancer spreads, so that we can better treat metastatic breast cancer or prevent it all together,” said Ellen Willmott, interim president and CEO of Susan G. Komen. “This focus on aggressive and metastatic disease is the foundation of our Bold Goal to reduce U.S. breast cancer deaths by 50 percent by 2026.”

Metastatic breast cancer – which is breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body like the brain, liver, bones or lungs – is responsible for almost all of the nation’s 40,000 annual breast cancer deaths. More than 154,000 women are living with metastatic disease in the U.S. today. By targeting metastatic disease, Komen is hoping to reduce breast cancer deaths dramatically in the U.S.

This year’s funding also includes $17.6 million to early-career investigators. “Funding for early-career researchers ensures a continuum of breast cancer research, across generations, which is critical in a time of tightening federal research dollars,” Willmott said.

Komen’s Investments in Indiana

Komen’s research program is funded in part by contributions from Komen’s nationwide Network of Affiliates, which directs 25 percent of funds raised locally to Komen’s national research program, while investing the remaining 75 percent into community outreach programs that serve local women and men facing breast cancer.

Since 1999, Komen Evansville Tri-State has funded $7,409,021 to community programs serving local women and men, while contributing $2,935,655 to Komen research.

“We are so thankful for the friends, family and neighbors that fight alongside us, helping to reduce the number of breast cancer deaths in Indiana, both on the ground and through research,” said Sheila Seiler.  

In Indiana, researchers will receive:

Indiana University

Komen Scholar Sunil Badve, M.D., will receive $250,000 to understand how RNA controls genes in breast cancer and how this leads to therapy resistance and metastasis.  This work will also determine if certain drugs used to treat hypertension could be used to treat triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) that remains after chemotherapy. Ultimately, this work should lead to the development of new strategies to address treatment resistance and metastasis.

Komen Scholar Harikrishna Nakshatri, Ph.D., will receive $700,000 to better understand the molecular mechanisms involved in ER+ breast cancer growth and recurrence.  The goal of this work is to develop new combinations of therapies using drugs that are currently being used in the clinic to treat ER+ breast cancer. 

Komen Scholar Bryan Schneider, M.D., will receive $600,000 to continue his research to understand why some patients suffer chemotherapy-related side effects, such as peripheral neuropathy and therapy-induced heart failure, while others do not. Dr. Schneider will review genetic information and lead a clinical trial to find the underlying cause of these toxicities and develop preventive therapies.

Indiana University will receive $550,000 to support the Susan G. Komen Tissue Bank (KTB) at the IU Simon Cancer Center, the world’s only biorepository of normal breast tissue. This grant supports the collection and storage of whole blood, DNA, serum, plasma, and healthy breast tissue from women not known to have breast cancer, as well as the distribution of the samples to researchers worldwide. The availability of such normal tissue has the potential to revolutionize the understanding of changes that happen in a normal breast and how these molecular mechanisms are altered in the malignant process.

Purdue University

Sueng-Oe Lim, Ph.D., will receive $450,000 to study how to enhance the immune system’s natural ability to fight breast cancer through a protein called PD-L1. Attempts to target this molecule have been difficult due to changes to the protein by the addition of sugars. By controlling the process of sugar additions to the protein, they propose to increase the effectiveness of PD-L1 treatment.

These new funds bring Komen’s total research investment in breast cancer to more than $956 million since opening its doors in 1982, the largest of any nonprofit and second only to the U.S. government. In addition to research, Komen and its nationwide network of Affiliates serve women and men in thousands of communities. To date, more than $2.1 billion has been invested in community programs that provide education, screening and treatment support. 

Indiana also has 3 ongoing grants, awarded in previous years including a grant to Komen Scholar Kathy Miller, M.D.

(This story was originally published on October 4, 2017)

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