Indiana Researchers Land Komen Grants

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A group of Indiana University breast cancer researchers will share in nearly $1.2 million in grants from a national organization. The Susan G. Komen funding will also benefit the breast tissue bank at the Indiana University Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis. August 1, 2013

News Release

DALLAS, Tex. - Susan G. Komen today announced $4.5 million in research funding to more fully understand the role that environmental issues play in breast cancer development. The grants will be part of Komen’s $42 million 2013 research portfolio, which includes nearly $1.2 million in new funding to researchers at one Indiana institution.

The new environmental grants will build on research that Komen has already funded to more fully understand the role of toxins and other environmental factors that may contribute to breast cancer.

Komen Chief Mission Officer Chandini Portteus said that the environmental grants are just one element in Komen's more than $790 million research program - the largest breast cancer research investment of any nonprofit outside of the U.S. government.

"These environmental studies will add to our understanding of how breast cancer develops," Portteus said. "At the same time, Komen will continue to fund research along the entire cancer spectrum – from prevention, to better screening, more personalized treatments for metastatic disease, and ending disparities in outcomes for women of color and those without adequate access to healthcare," Portteus said.

Komen's Indiana Commitment

Dana Curish, executive director of Komen Central Indiana, said that since 1982, Komen has invested more than $20 million in research funding to Indiana institutions. Susan G. Komen Affiliates in Indiana have also funded more than $21 million to community health programs that provide screenings, education, financial aid and social and emotional support to women and families throughout the state – well over $15 million by Komen Central Indiana alone.

"Up to 75 percent of the net funds we raise locally, stay here to support our local community health and education programs. The other 25 percent helps fund Komen's national research programs,” Curish said. “We’re thankful for our supporters who help us serve our communities here at home, while supporting our education and research institutions."

The 2013 Indiana research grants will focus on breast cancer biology and recurrence. The

grants include:

-$500,000 to the Susan G. Komen Tissue Bank at the Indiana University Simon Cancer Center to fund the collection of normal breast tissue from women in Kenya to help understand the underlying biology and genetic issues that lead to more aggressive forms of breast cancer, and higher mortality rates from breast cancer, in women of African descent.

"This is a groundbreaking effort which should go very far to advance our understanding of the origin of triple negative disease/aggressive disease in women of African descent and thus speed the discovery of promising therapeutics,” said Portteus.

Komen is also granting additional funding in 2013 for operations at the Tissue Bank, which is the only repository for healthy breast cancer tissue in the world. This bank allows global researchers to better understand how breast cancer develops by comparing healthy tissue to diseased tissue. The Tissue Bank opened in 2007 with a $1 million grant from Susan G. Komen to collect, and share, healthy breast tissue samples donated by volunteers. Since 2007, the Bank has collected more than 3,000 tissue samples, in addition to DNA and blood samples, helped by more than $7.5 million in Komen funding.

-$225,000 to Komen Scholar Sunil Badve, M.D., F.R.C.Path, of Indiana University to develop genetic tests that can more accurately predict the likelihood of recurrence and long-term prognosis for people with estrogen receptor positive (ER+) tumors. Estrogen receptor expression is seen in approximately 65-70 percent of breast cancer cases, and ER+ tumors and can recur many years after initial treatment.

-$225,000 to Komen Scholar Theresa Guise, M.D., of Indiana University, to focus on identifying the mechanisms causing breast cancer-associated muscle dysfunction and how they relate to decreases in muscle mass, commonly labeled as “wasting.” Dr. Guise aims to understand and prevent this condition, improving the quality of life for breast cancer patients.

-$175,000 to Komen Scholar Kathy Miller, M.D. of Indiana University, for a clinical trial to investigate novel therapies that could prevent recurrence of triple negative breast cancer after a woman’s initial treatment for the disease. Three out of five women with triple negative breast cancer will have a recurrence within two years of their initial treatment. Miller’s team is seeking to prevent recurrence in the first place.

-$62,500 to Komen Scholar Bryan Schneider, M.D., of Indiana University for continuing work to identify genetic markers that will help doctors identify patients who will have adverse reactions (such as heart disease and numbness in the extremities) to taxane therapies for breast cancer. These early identifications will prevent doctors from administering a therapy that may decrease a patient’s quality of life or result in a lifethreatening situation.

-$225,000 to Komen Scholar Harikrishna Nakshatri, BVSC, Ph.D., of Indiana University to study a class of proteins knows as “dependence receptors” (DRs) in ER+ tumors that, when paired with specific partner proteins, aid in the proliferation of cancer cells. By identifying the mechanisms governing the action of these DRs, it is hoped that inhibitors may be developed to interrupt this pairing, thereby stopping tumor growth in ER+ breast cancers.

Environmental Grants Topics

The five environmental grants awarded for 2013 include separate studies on the impact of radiation exposure on breast cancer development during screening and treatment; 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.

These grants include grants to Brigham and Women’s Medical Center in Boston; Duke University in Durham, N.C.; Emory University in Atlanta; and the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

"In each of these grants, we are attempting to move beyond theories to establish a solid base of scientific evidence on the role of environmental exposures to breast cancer development," said Portteus.

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.

"Our research and community health outreach would not be possible without the generosity of

our partners and donors in communities, and we are so grateful for those who understand and

support this vital work for all people facing breast cancer," Portteus said.

A complete list and description of Komen's 2013 grants, including the new Indiana grants, is available here. All grants and awards are contingent upon receipt of a fully executed agreement.

About Susan G. Komen® & the Central Indiana Affiliate

Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Suzy, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer. Today, Susan G. Komen works to end breast cancer in the U.S. and throughout the world by investing more than $790 million in breast cancer research and $1.5 billion in community outreach programs over the past 30 years; providing funding to help low-income and uninsured women get screened and get treatment; advocating for cancer research and outreach programs; and working globally in more than 30 countries. Visit komen.org.

Through events like the Race for the Cure, the Central Indiana Affiliate has invested in

community breast health programs in 21 counties. 75 percent of proceeds stay in Centr