$3.5 Million Promise Grant Among Studies of Aggressive Cancers, Early Detection, New Treatments
DALLAS – September 26, 2011 — Researchers at six Michigan institutions will receive more than $6 million for significant new research into treatments for aggressive forms of breast cancer and methods to detect breast cancer earlier, with funding announced today by Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, the world’s largest breast cancer organization.
The largest single grant is a $3.5 million Promise Grant from Komen for the Cure to a team headed by Max S. Wicha, M.D., at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, to investigate treatments that target cancer stem cells in triple negative breast cancer. Four other Michigan studies being funded by Komen also involve targeting cancer stem cells.
Komen’s Promise Grants are multi-million dollar, multi-year, collaborative grants aimed at answering difficult questions in breast cancer and translating their findings into outcomes that will impact patient care. Komen has invested $84 million in 17 Promise Grants since 2008 to investigate issues such as treatments for aggressive forms of breast cancer, environmental and lifestyle factors in breast cancer development, and potential breast cancer vaccines.
With the Promise Grant, Wicha and the University of Michigan team will collaborate with researchers at the Karmanos Cancer Institute/Wayne State University in Detroit; the Van Andel Research Institute in Grand Rapids, Mich. with the Translational Genomics Research Institute of Phoenix, Ariz.; the Henry Ford Cancer Center in Detroit, and the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Two breast cancer advocates will also be a part of the research team.
They will investigate potential treatments targeting cancer stem cells—the lethal seeds that fuel the tumor’s growth and spread—in triple negative breast cancer, an aggressive form of the disease that is often resistant to standard breast cancer treatments and disproportionately affects African American women. About 26 percent of African American women with breast cancer are triple-negative, compared with 15 percent of Caucasian women.
The Michigan grants are part of Komen for the Cure’s $66 million investment in new research, patient support and scientific conferences in 2011. Komen has invested more than $685 million for breast cancer research in its 29 years, making it the largest funder of research among breast cancer organizations.
Komen announced additional research funding for Michigan projects, which includes:
University of Michigan
• $450,000 to a study headed by Suling Liu, Ph.D., to study ways to target a protein believed to be responsible for the growth and migration of certain breast cancer cells.
• $450,000 to Hasan Korkaya, D.V.M, Ph.D., to investigate signals that trigger tumor growth in aggressive breast cancer cases.
• $450,000 to Madhuri Kakarala, M.D., Ph.D., who is investigating ingredients in common spices to decrease a breast cancer stem cell’s ability to make more stem cells. The goal is to reduce the risk of invasive breast cancer or recurrent cancer in women at high risk for ductal carcinoma in situ.
• $180,000 grant for research by Heang-Ping Chan, Ph.D., and Yao Lu, Ph.D., who are seeking methods to increase the sensitivity of 3-D screening technology to more accurately detect small lesions in the breast and potentially detect breast tumors sooner.
• $180,000 to researchers Mohamed El-Sayed, Ph.D., Sophia Merajver, M.D., Ph.D, Yasmin Yuksel Durmaz, Ph.D., to develop a drug delivery system to carry growth-inhibiting treatments directly to breast cancer tumors.
Henry Ford Cancer Center
• $600,000 to Maria Worsham, Ph.D., at the Henry Ford Cancer Center to better understand different types of ER-negative breast cancers, which are often more aggressive. The Ford team believes a better understanding of these aggressive breast cancers could lead to the development of new drugs.
Michigan State University
• $450,000 to Eran Andrechek, Ph.D., Michigan State University, for a study to use genomics to study pathways that breast cancer cells may take, with a goal of more accurately predicting breast cancer development and personalized treatments.
Komen President Elizabeth Thompson said the Michigan grants address important areas of focus for Komen. “They tie squarely to our mission to fund cutting-edge breast cancer research along the entire cancer continuum – from prevention to early diagnostics, disparities in outcomes, more effective treatments, and answers for aggressive and metastatic disease.”
The national grants announced today augment local community grants funding totaling more than $2.5 million in Michigan from Komen’s Detroit Race for the Cure Affiliate; Mid-Michigan Affiliate; Southwest Michigan Affiliate and West Michigan Affiliate. Seventy-five percent of funds raised by Komen Affiliates stay in the community for screening, treatment, education and support programs; the rest helps fund national research programs. Globally, Komen and its Affiliates have funded more than $1.3 billion to community outreach, education, screening and support programs.
“The projects we’re investing in today are critical to the momentum we’ve built during the last 30 years in our quest to understand, and ultimately solve, the many questions surrounding breast cancer,” said Eric Winer, M.D., Komen’s chief scientific advisor, chief of the Division of Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Professor of Medicine at Harvard University.
*All grants and awards are contingent upon receipt of a fully executed agreement.