Massachusetts Researchers Receive $5,000,000 in Research Funding

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MASSACHUSETTS Researchers Receive $5,000,000 in Research Funding

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2019 – Susan G. Komen®, the world’s leading breast cancer organization, has announced $26 million in funding for new research projects that focus on metastatic breast cancer, developing new, more-effective treatments, and addressing disparities in breast cancer outcomes. This year’s grant slate focuses on key areas that will help the organization achieve its Bold Goal to reduce the current number of breast cancer deaths in the U.S. by 50 percent by 2026.

“In order to save more lives, we must address the main cause of breast cancer deaths: metastatic breast cancer,” said George Sledge, Susan G. Komen’s Chief Scientific Advisor, M.D., Professor of Medicine, and Chief of the Division of Oncology in the Department of Medicine at Stanford University.

“We are pleased to support research aimed at preventing breast cancers from metastasizing (spreading) and developing new, more effective treatments for metastatic disease,” added Komen’s Chief Scientific Advisor, Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D., Executive Vice President for Research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Director of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, and B.F. Byrd Jr. Professor of Molecular Oncology, at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

More than an estimated 154,000 women in the U.S. are living with metastatic breast cancer – the most advanced stage of breast cancer that has spread outside the breast, often to the brain, bones, liver and lungs. Currently, there is no cure for metastatic breast cancer, and it is responsible for almost all the 42,000 breast cancer deaths in the U.S. each year.

Among the 60 grants Komen awarded, 38 are focused on better understanding and treating metastatic breast cancer. Grants were also given to researchers who are developing new therapies for breast cancer including aggressive subtypes such as triple negative breast cancer, investigating drug resistance, and addressing health disparities in breast cancer outcomes among specific communities.

“Breast cancer does not affect everyone equally and with the grants we’re funding this year, we’re moving closer to new therapies for aggressive forms of cancer, understanding why treatment doesn’t work in some patients and making sure everyone has access to the care they need,” said Paula Schneider, CEO, Susan G. Komen.

Komen’s 2019 portfolio includes*:

  • 60 grants totaling $25,689,384. Of these:
    • 38 grants totaling $17,504,384 are focused on better understanding metastasis – why it occurs and how to prevent and treat metastatic breast cancer
    • 39 grants totaling $15,579,815 for catalyzing the development of new therapies for all stages of breast cancer
    • 16 grants looking into novel treatments for triple negative breast cancer
    • 14 grants totaling $6,298,750 investigating drug resistance (why drugs stop working in some patients)
    • 9 grants focused on disparities in breast cancer outcomes and
    • 5 that apply big data technology (e.g. Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning) to breast cancer research

*Eds Note: Numbers add to more than 60 because individual studies may be classed in more than one category.

These new funds bring Komen’s total research investment in breast cancer to more than $1 billion since opening its doors in 1982, and Komen’s investment in research focused on metastatic breast cancer to $210 million. In addition to research, Komen and its nationwide network of Affiliates serve women and men in thousands of communities. To date, more than $2.3 billion has been invested in efforts to provide critical education and real-time support to people in communities across the country.

Komen’s Investments in Massachusetts

Komen’s research grant program is supported in part by funds raised by the organization’s nationwide network of Affiliates. Each year, Affiliates contribute at least 25 percent of local funds raised to research, while the remainder of their funds help provide vital education and real-time support to people facing breast cancer today in their communities.

Since 1993, Komen New England has invested nearly $32 million into community programs serving local women and men, while contributing over $10 million to Komen research.

Komen’s new research in MASSACHUSETTS includes:

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Komen Scientific Advisory Board Member Myles Brown, M.D., will receive $200,000 to study how patients with metastatic breast cancer become resistant to endocrine therapies and develop methods to test new combinations of targeted treatments that can overcome drug resistance.

Komen Scholar Ian Krop, M.D., Ph.D., will receive $400,000 to identify mutations in blood and metastatic breast cancer tissues that are associated with resistance to the latest HER2- targeted therapies currently in clinical trials. Overall, this project should identify how metastatic breast cancers develop resistance to HER2-targeted therapies so that it can be stopped, thereby improving survival.

Komen Scholar Jennifer Ligibel, M.D., will receive $400,000 to conduct a clinical trial to test whether weight loss can reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence in overweight or obese women with stage II-III breast cancer. By understanding the effect of weight loss on breast cancer outcomes, this study has the potential to determine whether weight loss programs should become a standard part of breast cancer care.

Komen Scholar Ann Partridge, M.D., M.P.H., will receive $600,000 to study breast cancer in young women, including disease, treatment and psycho-social characteristics at diagnosis and in follow-up visits, compared to older women. Her goal is to identify potential interventions that could lead to reduced morbidity (health degradation, poor quality of life) and mortality (death) in young patients.

Komen Scholar Kornelia Polyak, M.D., Ph.D., will receive $600,000 to study how a population of normal breast cells, called epithelial cells, act as precursors to breast tumors. Outcomes from this project should form the basis of future prevention studies to help women at high risk for breast cancer.

Komen Scholar Eric Winer, M.D., will receive $300,000 to study risk factors like body mass index (BMI), weight gain, physical activity after diagnosis and dietary inflammatory score, that may impact late recurrence of estrogen receptor (ER+) breast cancer. The goal is to identify potential interventions to reduce late recurrence.

Judith Agudo Cantero, Ph.D., will receive $450,000 to investigate ways to use the immune system to attack breast cancer cells that have spread to the lungs. The goal of this study is to develop an immune therapy to target and eliminate breast metastases.

Ana Garrido-Castro, M.D., will receive $450,000 to study how genetics and immune cells can contribute to drug resistance and metastasis by using data from patients with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). The results of this study could lead to new drug targets for TNBC or to new ways to identify TNBC patients at risk for developing drug resistance and metastasis.

José Pablo Leone, M.D., will receive $450,000 to test two new treatment combinations for patients with breast cancer that has spread to the brain. His work aims to determine if these treatment combinations can eliminate brain metastases and improve patient survival.

Harvard Medical School

Jennifer Rosenbluth, M.D., Ph.D., will receive $450,000 to study new treatments for inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), an especially aggressive cancer type that is prone to become metastatic. She will identify drugs that enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy for metastatic IBC with the goal of moving these drug combinations to clinical testing.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Komen Scholar Regina Barzilay, Ph.D., will receive $600,000 to develop an accurate risk assessment model to improve early detection of breast cancer. The model will enable personalized screening programs to predict patients at high risk of developing breast cancer. Overall, this project should improve outcomes by identifying high-risk populations and improving early detection of the disease.

Tufts Medical Center

Karen Freund, M.D., will receive $100,000 to lead the Tufts Breast Cancer Training Program to train students in breast cancer disparities research aimed at reducing disparities among Asian-American women. This program will focus on the best methods to address language and cultural barriers, which include a lack of trust in Western medical care by Asian-American women.

“We are incredibly excited about the research breakthroughs happening in our region,” said Lori van Dam, Susan G. Komen New England CEO. “Without the fundraising efforts of our community, we would not be able to support this work, as well as provide vital services like screening and patient navigation.”



About Susan G. Komen®
Susan G. Komen® is the world’s leading nonprofit breast cancer organization, working to save lives and end breast cancer forever. Komen has an unmatched, comprehensive 360-degree approach to fighting this disease across all fronts and supporting millions of people in the U.S. and in countries worldwide.  We advocate for patients, drive research breakthroughs, improve access to high-quality care, offer direct patient support and empower people with trustworthy information.  Born out of a promise between two sisters, Susan G. Komen remains committed to supporting those affected by breast cancer today, while tirelessly searching for tomorrow’s cures.

About Susan G. Komen® New England

Susan G. Komen New England is working to better the lives of those facing breast cancer in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. Susan G. Komen® New England began with Races for the Cure® in Boston and Manchester, VT in 1993 and Hartford in 1994. The Affiliate has invested over $13 million in Connecticut organizations, over $3 million in Maine organizations, over $9 million in Massachusetts organizations, and over $6.5 million in Vermont and New Hampshire organizations providing breast health services to uninsured and underinsured residents. The Affiliate has also contributed more than $10 million to support breast cancer research.

Grants are contingent upon signed and executed contracts with Komen