Breast cancer researchers receive $2.5 million in Susan G. Komen grants

Susan G. Komen has announced more than $2.5 million in grants for UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers. The organization, which funded eight grants for nearly $2.97 million to researchers in North Carolina, has a goal of reducing breast cancer deaths in the U.S. by 50 percent across the next decade.

Susan G. Komen announced today it awarded six grants totaling more than $2.5 million to the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers to fund innovative studies, ranging from an effort to rapidly identify genetic changes driving breast cancer metastasis to a study exploring factors driving breast cancer survival disparities. In all, Komen funded eight grants for nearly $2.97 million to researchers in North Carolina.

The grants are part of an international campaign by Komen, which includes providing $32.7 million in grants to researchers in 23 states and seven countries. Komen’s goal is to reduce breast cancer deaths in the U.S. by 50 percent across the next decade.

“These grants are a testament to the strength and breadth of UNC Lineberger’s breast cancer research faculty, and they also speak to Komen’s unwavering commitment to eradicating breast cancer,” said UNC Lineberger Director Norman Sharpless, MD, the Wellcome Distinguished Professor in Cancer Research. “We are grateful to Komen for this support and the organization’s role in the fight against breast cancer, which is a leading cause of cancer death in North Carolina.”

Komen’s research support is focused on expanding knowledge of metastatic breast cancer and how to stop it; investigating novel treatments for aggressive types of breast cancer; advancing early detection; and identifying causes of breast cancer disparities.

“Not only will these grants accelerate our understanding of key areas in breast cancer research, but they include funding for early-career investigators. As federal research dollars become increasingly difficult to secure, these awards give promising young researchers an opportunity to establish their careers, and help ensure breakthrough breast cancer research continues for years to come,” said Komen President and CEO Judy Salerno, M.D., M.S., in a release. “Their work is essential to achieving our vision of a world without breast cancer.”

UNC Lineberger faculty receiving grant support are:

  • Gaorav Gupta, MD, PhD, a UNC Lineberger member and assistant professor in the UNC School of Medicine Department of Radiation Oncology, will receive $450,000 to identify defects in the quality control mechanism that detects and corrects DNA damage or kills off potentially cancerous cells that cannot be fixed. Because these defects are likely to cause triple negative breast cancer, this information could be used to provide more personalized treatments for patients with this aggressive breast cancer type.
  • Katherine Hoadley, PhD, a UNC Lineberger member and assistant professor in the UNC School of Medicine Department of Genetics, will receive $450,000 to study the genetic and immune cell features of basal-like breast cancer, a poorly understood subtype of breast cancer. Understanding these features could help predict which treatments are likely to be the most effective for patients with basal-like breast cancer.
  • Maki Tanioka, MD, PhD, a postdoctoral research associate at UNC Lineberger, will receive $120,000 to identify the genetic mutations that cause some HER2+ breast cancers to be less responsive to a specific targeted therapy. Once identified, these mutations could be targeted to improve treatment responses and ultimately patient survival.
  • Melissa Troester, PhD, MPH, a UNC Lineberger member and associate professor in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, and Andrew F. Olshan, Ph.D., UNC Lineberger’s associate director for population sciences and chair of the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health Department of Epidemiology; will receive $405,000 to start the UNC-Komen Breast Cancer Mortality Disparities Training Program. Trainees in this program will explore how differences in biology, access to care and other factors lead to differences in survival between African-American and Caucasian breast cancer patients.
  • Komen Scholar Lisa Carey, MD, physician-in-chief of the N.C. Cancer Hospital and associate director of clinical research at UNC Lineberger, will receive $500,000 to continue her work developing a method to rapidly assess the genetic features of breast tumors that have spread to other parts of the body, as well as tumors that remained within the breast, in order to uncover which genetic changes may lead to the development of metastatic breast cancer.
  • Komen Scholar Charles Perou, PhD, will receive $600,000 to identify the genetic drivers of the HER2-enriched subtype of HER2+ breast cancer in order to better understand how this type of breast cancer responds to current therapies and identify potential new treatments that may be more effective.

Komen has awarded more than in $920 million breast cancer research grants since 1982. In addition to research, Komen and its nationwide network of affiliates serve women and men in thousands of communities. To date, more than $2 billion has been invested in community programs that provide education, screening and treatment support.