UNC Lineberger Clinicians Receive Grant to Evaluate Effect of Chemotherapy on Aging

CHAPEL HILL, NC - UNC scientists have received a one-year $223,000 grant from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation to study the effect of chemotherapy on aging in older women with breast cancer.

Hyman Muss, MD, professor of medicine and director of the UNC Geriatric Oncology Program, is principal investigator, and Ned Sharpless, MD, associate professor of medicine and UNC Lineberger associate director for translational research, is co-principal investigator.

The major risk factor for developing breast cancer is increasing age.  The use of adjuvant chemotherapy has been shown to significantly increase both relapse-free and overall survival in women with early stage breast cancer. The scientists will apply laboratory findings by Sharpless showing that expression of a protein associated with molecular aging- p16INK4a - increases with age and is also increased by DNA damaging agents, such as drugs used to treat cancer.

The scientists will test if expression of p16 prior to starting chemotherapy can predict suppression of bone marrow activity in women with breast cancer given chemotherapy. Having that knowledge could allow more strategic/individualized treatment planning for help determine which patients are the best candidates for more aggressive therapies.