Unprecedented Partnership between the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation and Susan G. Komen for the Cure® will Fund Collaborative Team at University of Alabama at Birmingham
Release provided courtesy of the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation.
NORWOOD, NJ - April 8, 2009 – Funds raised by the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation (TNBCF) will be used to jump start a promising $6.4 million dollar research project at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Cancer Center. The unprecedented Susan G. Komen for the Cure Promise Grant co-funded by the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation marks the first time that Komen for the Cure has collaborated with another non-profit organization to fund national research, and will be the largest single grant to date focused on triple negative disease – an aggressive subtype of breast cancer that doesn’t respond to targeted therapies that have been found to be effective in other forms of breast cancer.
The grant to the University of Alabama will go to a team of researchers that has shown in early (pre-clinical) studies that an antibody (drug) they have developed might be an effective targeted therapy for triple negative tumors. The five-year Komen/TNBCF grant will fund a series of experiments that bring together a unique team of medical oncologists, basic researchers, pathologists, imaging specialists, and patient advocates, who will look at the biology behind how this antibody helps kill triple negative tumors and how it might be used for patients in the clinic.
“Cancer research is moving rapidly. Genomic discoveries that are identifying targeted therapies for some breast cancers are showing us that others, such as the triple negative subtype, are harder to treat,” explained Eric P. Winer, MD, Komen’s chief scientific advisor, and member of TNBCF’s board of trustees. “Research collaborations that move results to patients quickly are especially important to patients with triple negative breast cancer who are in urgent need of personalized approaches. The team assembled at UAB will address this very important need.”
Last year, Komen awarded its first Promise Grants -- five-year awards of up to $7.5 million -- to teams comprised of researchers from different disciplines, and, in some cases, different institutions, working on projects with likely patient benefit within the next decade. Projects needed to focus on an important breast cancer question, but funding was not directed at specific areas or subtypes. Through an initial contribution of $500,000, the TNBCF established the Komen Triple Negative Promise Grant, and created a mechanism for a Promise Grant restricted to triple negative research.
“We are taking the Promise Grant spirit of collaboration to the next level,” said Hayley Dinerman, board chair of the TNBCF. “If research collaboration is what will speed advances to patients, then organizations need to collaborate and join forces as well. We all need to work together, to share resources and to eliminate duplication of efforts. If we are asking scientists to collaborate, then we, as non-profit organizations raising money for research, need to work together too. We are really excited to work with Komen on this important grant.”
The Promise Grant team at UAB will work in the lab to see how models of triple negative tumors respond to a new drug, alone and in combination with existing therapies, before moving it into clinical trials for patients. They will also work to develop ways to predict which treatments will prove most effective for triple negative patients and will use imaging techniques, such as MRIs, to look at how tumors are responding to the targeted treatments. Further collaboration is planned with researchers at the University of North Carolina and the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center who will assist in assessing tumor characteristics and response to therapies. Clinical trials will be conducted through the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium (TBCRC), a group of 14 leading academic institutions from across the country, working together to expedite early phase breast cancer clinical trials.
“This first-of-its-kind award was successful in calling attention to triple negative breast cancer and generated a great deal of interest and outstanding ideas from renowned researchers,” added Dr. Winer. “As a result, award selection was quite competitive. Our expert review team was excited about the potential target that UAB identified for triple negative breast cancer and was impressed by the integrated research plan they described to move this potential treatment forward so that it might benefit patients.”
About Triple Negative Breast Cancer
It is now commonly understood that most breast cancers are characterized by the presence of three receptors (proteins found inside or on the surface of breast cells): estrogen, progesterone and HER2. These receptors are not “expressed” in women with triple negative breast cancer – hence the name. Since most treatments available today are aimed at those receptors, TNBC is difficult to treat, and the tumors are often more aggressive. TNBC represents approximately 15 percent of all breast cancer cases.
About Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation
Launched in 2006 in honor of Nancy Block-Zenna, a young woman who was diagnosed at age 35 with triple negative breast cancer and died less than three years later, the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation focuses on raising awareness and supporting research to find a cure for the disease. For more information about the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation or triple negative breast cancer, visit http://www.tnbcfoundation.org or call 646-942-0242.