Through the generous support of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF), the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is pleased to announce the inaugural recipients of the 2007 BCRF-AACR Grants in Translational Breast Cancer Research. These grants provide direct support for innovative breast cancer research projects designed to accelerate the discovery, development, and application of new ways to treat breast cancer, or for preclinical research with direct therapeutic implications.
After careful evaluation and assessment by an esteemed scientific review committee, three researchers emerged as the winners of the 2007 BCRF-AACR Grants in Translational Breast Cancer Research. They are: Ingrid A. Mayer, M.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine Vanderbilt University Medical Center; Alana Welm, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Oncological Sciences at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah; and Douglas Yee, M.D., Cancer Center Director and Professor, University of Minnesota—Twin Cities.
“The AACR congratulates Drs. Mayer, Welm and Yee on this outstanding achievement and applauds their efforts to translate their innovative research into potential treatments for breast cancer,” said Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D. (h.c.), AACR’s chief executive officer. “We are deeply grateful to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation for its commitment to cutting-edge breast cancer research and look forward to a long-lasting partnership in supporting novel translational research.”
Currently, an estimated 2 million Americans are living with or have been treated for breast cancer. Approximately 178,480 new breast cancer cases will be diagnosed this year, and about 40,460 will die from the disease. Translational research bridges the gap between laboratory research and patient care. The BCRF-AACR grant program has the vitally important goal of bringing scientific discoveries from the laboratory into breast cancer treatment protocols swiftly, safely and effectively.
Fifty-six grant applications were received and resulted in three awards, each for $233,333, to support promising research projects that could lead to individualized therapeutic options for breast cancer treatment in the near future.
Mayer’s research project, titled “Combined Endocrine and ErbB Inhibition in ER+/HER2+ Breast Cancers,” will address resistance to endocrine therapies. Through a Phase II study, she seeks to learn if the combination of an aromatase inhibitor with an EGFR/HER2 inhibitor will work better in preventing failure of tumors to respond to anti-hormonal treatment. Mayer hopes that her research will reduce mortality in patients with hormone-responsive HER2-positive breast cancer.
Welm’s research, “The MSP Pathway as a Therapeutic Target in Aggressive Breast Cancer,” will build upon her earlier studies which found that overexpression of the macrophage- stimulating protein (MSP) pathway drives progression of breast cancer. She validated the clinical relevance of this finding through gene expression data gathered from patients with early- stage breast cancer, showing that overexpression of three genes within the MSP pathway served as highly accurate indicators of poor prognosis in patients with early breast cancer. Her current research seeks to translate these findings to the clinic by developing a diagnostic test for overexpression of the MSP pathway as a biomarker for poor prognosis and to carry out preclinical tests of three MSP pathway inhibitors in order to block growth and/or metastasis of breast cancer.
Yee will look at “Gene Expression Profiling to Predict Response to anti-IGF Therapy.” This research builds upon his long-term goal of demonstrating that the insulin-like growth factor receptor (IGF1R) is an excellent target for breast cancer therapy. Yee hypothesizes that expression of specific insulin receptor substrate adaptor proteins link IGF1R to identifiable gene signatures and cancer phenotypes. To test this, Yee aims to develop gene expression profiles to predict which cancers are IGF-driven and, ultimately, which patients may best benefit from these inhibitors. His long-term goal is to use these discoveries to make the use of anti-IGF drugs more effective, and to create a better tool for making personalized therapeutic decisions for breast cancer.