Priorities Include Avoiding Overtreatment, Developing Personalized Therapies and Reducing Racial and Socioeconomic Disparities
DALLAS – May 17, 2012 – Susan G. Komen for the Cure®’s 2012 research program takes aim at early and late stage breast disease while seeking answers in early detection, cancer prevention, and socioeconomic issues that often make breast cancer outcomes worse in minority and medically under-served women.
Komen today announced $58 million in new research funding for 2012, augmenting the $685 million that the organization has invested in breast cancer research since 1982. Komen is the largest non-profit funder of breast cancer research outside of the U.S. government.
“A special focus this year is on making sure that all women get the right treatments from the outset,” said Komen President Elizabeth Thompson. “This might mean no treatment, or very limited interventions, for lesions that might never develop into cancer. At the other end of the spectrum, we want new therapies that promise a full, high-quality life for women with advanced and metastatic disease.”
The Komen 2012 research program includes 154 grants to researchers in 22 states and seven countries. Komen currently funds more than 500 active research grants around the world.
The 2012 grants cover the full “continuum of cancer care,” Thompson said, including research into prevention, environmental issues, more sensitive screening, personalized treatments and factors that lead to worse breast cancer outcomes in minorities and special populations.
A complete list of Komen’s new peer-reviewed grants is available on Komen’s website at: www5.komen.org/2012grants.html
The portfolio includes $8 million in new Komen Promise Grants, the large-scale, multi-year research projects that reach across institutions and disciplines to find answers for big issues in breast cancer science. Komen has funded more than $84 million in Promise Grants since they were introduced in 2008.
This year, Promise Grant researchers will be investigating why some women, especially those with the most common forms of breast cancer, are more likely to have a late recurrence of their breast cancers, while others will not. Additionally, these grants will seek new methods to treat women whose cancers recur. With this year’s Promise Grants:
• Drs. Matthew Ellis and Pascal Meier of Washington University in St. Louis, will receive $4 million to better identify which women with ER-positive disease are at highest risk for late recurrence, and then targeting those at high risk with more effective therapies. The team will study changes in the DNA structure of breast cancer cells versus normal cells, and develop better ways to kill the breast cancer cells before they spread.
• The second $4 million Promise Grant to Drs. Bert O’Malley and Kent Osborne at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, may lead to the first new drug in years to prevent recurrence in women with ER-positive breast cancer. The team seeks to identify women who won’t benefit from the most commonly used therapies today -- tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors – and develop new therapies for women with this form of the disease.
Estrogen-driven ER-positive disease is diagnosed in about 70 percent of breast cancer cases.
The focus on recurrence and more targeted therapies is essential for women today and for future generations, said Cheryl Jernigan, who serves as a Komen Scholar advising Komen about its research strategy and priorities from an advocate’s perspective.
“As a survivor, I can tell you that the worst part of this disease is not knowing whether you really are OK, whether the other shoe will drop, and what options will be available for you if and when it does. It’s essential that women get clarity about where their disease is going, and better treatments to eliminate their cancer all together,” said Jernigan.
Chandini Portteus, Komen’s Vice President of Research, Evaluation and Scientific Programs, said Komen’s 2012 program aligns with Komen’s philosophy of funding research that will translate to new approaches or treatments in the shortest period of time. The grants include:
• A $250,000 scholar grant to Anne McTiernan, M.D, Ph.D., of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle to investigate the incremental effect of vitamin D supplementation in overweight and obese postmenopausal women with low blood vitamin D levels on response to a weight loss (diet + exercise) intervention. The proposed research will provide important information about vitamin D insufficiency and weight, two potentially modifiable risk factors for breast cancer.
• $673,000 to Tari King, M.D., of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to better identify appropriate treatment and/or preventative strategies to identify those women with a specific type of pre-cancerous lesion that will develop into breast cancer.
• $675,000 to Lance Liotta, Ph.D., of George Mason University to develop a way to target and kill pre-cancerous lesions in the breast before they have any opportunity to progress into breast cancer.
Biomarkers for Early Detection
• $180,000 to Jamie Guenthoer, Ph.D., at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle to develop a blood test that, with mammography, could detect cancer and identify aggressive disease very early.
• A $250,000 scholar grant to Mary-Claire King, Ph.D., at the University of Washington in Seattle, to identify new genes that will better identify women at risk for inherited breast cancer.
As in previous years, Komen is funding research to understand and address needs of special populations, such as minority women, women under 40, rural women, and low-income, uninsured and low-resource women. This year’s grants include:
• $888,000 to Michelle Cote, Ph.D., of Wayne State University to study markers to identify African American women at the highest risk for developing breast cancer.
• A $250,000 scholar grant to Patricia Ganz, M.D., UCLA, to study stress and lifestyle intervention strategies for younger breast cancer survivors.
• $320,000 to Roger Anderson, Ph.D., of Penn State to address unique issues of rural women with a study in rural Appalachia.
• $175,000 to Kim Blackwell, M.D., of Duke University, a Komen scholar, to examine triple negative breast cancer and its response to chemotherapy in the U.S. and China.
• $675,000 to Hee Lee, Ph.D., at the University of Minnesota to develop a prototype cell phone study to deliver information and messaging to empower Korean American women.
• $180,000 to Kim Nguyen, Sc.D., at the University of California, San Francisco, to counteract lag times between diagnosis and treatment in Asian women.
Other Issues in Metastatic and Aggressive Disease
In addition to the 2012 Promise Grants, Komen is continuing to invest in research into metastatic and aggressive forms of breast cancer. These include (but are not limited to):
• $450,000 grant to Keith Bahjat, Ph.D., of Providence Portland Medical Center to develop a vaccine against a gene commonly seen in HER-2 positive breast cancer, which represents 15 to 20 percent of breast cancer cases. The hope is to combine the vaccine therapy with treatment drugs to prevent recurrence.
• $450,000 grant to Elisabeth Battinelli, M.D., Ph.D., of Brigham and Woman’s Hospital in Boston to understand why some blood-clot medicines like heparin are leading to prolonged survival and less metastatic disease in breast cancer patients.
Komen’s research program is funded by national fund-raising programs, partners, and by Komen Affiliates who provide 25 percent of their locally raised funds to global research.
“None of this research or progress of the past 30 years would be possible without the generosity of our partners and donors in communities, and we are so grateful for those who understand and support all of our programs,” said Nancy G. Brinker, founder and CEO of Komen for the Cure. “Research has been a priority since ‘day one’ at Susan G. Komen. It continues to help us save lives and reduce suffering for women and men all around the world.”
*Grant awards are subject to contract acceptance.