Susan G. Komen, the world’s leading breast cancer organization, recently announced the award of $1.5 million for three new research projects that examine unique areas focused on metastatic breast cancer. The grants are part of the Susan G. Komen Metastatic Breast Cancer Collaborative Research Initiative, a first-of-its-kind collaboration among Komen, Duke Cancer Institute, and the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. The initiative is an effort to unite researchers to advance patient care and improve patient outcomes.
These three grants fall under Komen’s two primary research priorities, which are to find new ways to prevent, detect, and treat metastatic and aggressive breast cancers, as well as to understand and overcome the inequities that lead certain people and communities to have higher rates of mortality from breast cancer.
Exploring the Effects of Ancestry
A research team—led by Jennifer Freedman, PhD, and Steven Paterno of Duke Cancer Institute, and Katie Hoadley, PhD, of the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center—was awarded a $500,000 grant to investigate how the ancestry of different populations impacts the immune response to metastatic breast cancer. The study leaders identified biologic differences in certain genetic events (RNA splicing) in tumors between those with African vs European ancestry. The team seeks to determine whether these differences cause breast cancer cells to grow and spread more quickly in patients of African descent and contribute to higher metastasis and death rates among Black women. Improved understanding of these underlying molecular mechanisms may lead the way to better treatments and outcomes.
Further Improving Outcomes for Black Women
A research team—led by Melissa Troester, PhD, of the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Terry Hyslop, PhD, of Duke Cancer Institute—received a $500,000 grant for their project, which will seek to use information on tumor biology and social factors in the University of North Carolina’s long-standing Carolina Breast Cancer Study to understand racial differences in breast cancer metastasis and death. Researchers will also evaluate how life stress contributes to higher metastasis rates and worse breast cancer outcomes in Black women when compared with White women. They aim to develop specific interventions to reduce metastasis that consider multiple factors from basic biology to societal factors to improve outcomes for Black women.
Developing an Antitumor Vaccine
A research team—led by Benjamin Vincent, MD, of the University of North Carolina Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Zachary Hartman, PhD, of Duke Cancer Institute—received a $500,000 grant for their project to develop a personalized antitumor vaccine strategy for patients with advanced triple-negative breast cancer. The intent is to mobilize the body’s immune system to shut down tumor growth and metastasis.