• Susan G. Komen Commits $4.5 Million to Environmental Research in Breast Cancer


    Part of 2013 Research Portfolio Aimed at Toughest Questions in Breast Cancer 

    DALLAS – August 1, 2013 – Susan G. Komen® today announced $4.5 million in new research grants specifically aimed at understanding the role that the environment may play in breast cancer development.  

    The environmental grants will be part of more than $42 million in new 2013 research grants announced today by the world's largest breast cancer organization. This year's investment brings the total amount that Komen has invested in breast cancer research since its founding in 1982 to more than $790 million, making Komen the largest nonprofit funder of breast cancer research outside of the U.S. government. 

    "These environmental grants will build on research that we have previously funded to expand our knowledge of the way that toxins and other factors contribute to breast cancer development," said Komen's Chief Mission Officer Chandini Portteus. "At the same time, we continue to invest in research along the entire breast cancer continuum, from prevention, to early detection, to more personalized treatments for metastatic and aggressive disease." 

    The 2013 environmental grants will build on Komen's groundbreaking work in 2011 with the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which examined the state of the science on environment issues in breast cancer development. The Komen-funded IOM report recommended large-scale research over the course of a woman's life, with a goal of developing interventions that can reduce breast cancer risk. Based on that report, Komen sought proposals for environmental research. 

    The five grants announced today include separate studies into: 

    The impact of radiation exposure on breast cancer development and in treatment  

    The impact of pollutants in areas where cancer rates are disproportionately high  

    The impact of air pollution on breast cancer development and  

    The role of synthetic chemicals called phthalates.  

    Specifically, Komen plans to fund: 

    • Two grants totaling $1.4 million to Brigham and Women's Medical Center in Boston, including: 
      • $955,000 grant to Rulla Tamimi, Sc.D., to study cancer "clusters," that is, areas of the country where breast cancer rates tend to be higher. The study will attempt to determine the role of exposure to air pollution, ultraviolet light and other toxins on breast cancer risk during the course of a woman's life.  
      • $450,000 to Thomas Ahern, Ph.D., to better understand the role of phthalates – synthetic chemicals found in consumer products and medications – in breast cancer development. 
    • Two studies totaling nearly $2 million to examine the role of radiation in breast cancer development and treatment. These include: 
      • A $1 million grant to Duke University Medical Center's David Kirsch, Ph.D., to study how radiation used in breast cancer treatment affects the heart, and seek ways to minimize heart damage in women who receive radiation treatment. 
      • A $995,000 grant to Ioannis Secholoulos, Ph.D., at Emory Universityin Atlanta to develop a new method to more accurately measure the amount of radiation a patient receives during routine screenings over her lifetime, with a goal of ultimately enabling healthcare providers to limit radiation exposure, if necessary.  
    • A fifth grant for $995,000 to Anna Wu, Ph.D., of the University of Southern California at Los Angeles, to study the effects of air pollution on breast cancer development, with a specific investigation into minority populations. 

    "In each of these grants, we are attempting to move beyond theories to a solid base of scientific evidence to understand the specific role of environmental exposures and breast cancer development," Portteus said. Komen has already invested nearly $14 million into 38 research grants studying environmental and lifestyle factors that may affect breast cancer risk, such as chemicals, diet, weight, exercise and alcohol use.  

    The remainder of Komen's 2013 research portfolio will fund research along the entire cancer continuum and includes studies into prevention, screening, personalized treatments for aggressive and metastatic disease, and strategies to improve breast cancer outcomes in diverse populations.  

    Komen's research investment is one part of the organization's overall mission to end breast cancer through science, community health outreach, advocacy and global programs. Komen has also invested more than $1.5 billion since its founding into community health programs that provide payments for treatments, screening for low-income and uninsured women, patient navigation programs, and financial and social support to women and men facing breast cancer.  

    Other highlights of Komen's 2013 grant portfolio include: 

    Metastatic Research 

    • $5 million for six studies into new and personalized treatments for metastatic and aggressive breast cancers, including grants to: 
      •  Andrea Richardson, M.D., Ph.D. at Dana-Farber Cancer Center will receive $1 million to help identify the process by which tumors survive and conserve energy during their rapid growth. Richardson also will investigate using the malaria drug chloroquinine, with chemotherapy, to improve treatment response in these tumors.  
      • Komen Scholar Lisa Carey, M.D. at UNC-Chapel Hill will receive a $225,000 grant to better understand and develop treatments for metastatic disease. 


    • $2 million for three new studies on more cost-effective and sensitive screening methods. These include: 
      • $225,000 to Komen Scholar Lori Pierce, M.D. at the University of Michigan to identify the genetic underpinnings of resistance to radiotherapy in inflammatory breast cancer patients and to create targeted therapies to reverse that resistance. 
      • $1 million to Andrew Maidment, Ph.D. of the University of Pennsylvania to design and test a new, three-dimensional breast imaging system. The enhanced imaging should allow doctors to more accurately diagnose breast cancer without requiring women to be called back for additional x-ray based imaging. 

    Disparities in Outcomes 

    • $1.7 million for three studies aimed at eliminating disparities in breast cancer outcomes for women of color, including:  
      • $225,000 to Komen Scholar Melissa Bondy, Ph.D. of the Baylor College of Medicine to continue investigating key genetic alterations in DNA from early stage breast tumors, with a goal of better predicting which tumors will recur. The study also will investigate different ethnic groups which may contribute to disparities in breast cancer survival.  
      • $967,445 to Valerie McCormack, Ph.D. of the International Agency for Research on Cancer to identify the reasons for low survival rates of women diagnosed with breast cancer in sub-Saharan Africa. 
    $1.7 million for three studies aimed at eliminating disparities in breast cancer outcomes for women of color, including:  


    • $4 million for four studies investigating the role that the immune system plays in breast cancer development and progression. These include:  
      • $996,691 to Joseph Baar, M.D., Ph.D. of Case Western Reserve University to design a vaccine against breast cancer recurrence in patients with metastatic breast cancer.  
      • $1 million to Donald McDonnell, Ph.D. of Duke University Medical Center to investigate and target a protein called CaMKK2 that is expressed in immune cells commonly found within breast tumors. These immune cells serve to "protect" the tumor from recognition by the patient's body, thus, the goal of the study is understand how to overcome that protective response and target the tumor for treatment. 

    A complete list of Komen's 2013 research funding* can be found here. 

    *Funding is contingent on a signed contract