Texas Researchers Will Receive More Than $3.9 Million in New Research Funding

DALLAS, TEXAS – Oct. 1, 2014 – Following through on a commitment to young scientists and clinicians, the Susan G. Komen® organization today announced new grants to more than 50 early-career breast cancer researchers -- almost half of Komen’s $34.7 million investment in new breast cancer research funding for 2014.

The grants include more than $3.9 million in new funding for research at three institutions in Texas, bringing Komen’s total research investment in Texas to more than $94 million since 1982.

“Our 2014 grants are intended to ensure continuity in breast cancer research for years to come,” said Komen President and CEO Judith A. Salerno, M.D., M.S.  “With federal research dollars tightening, we’re deeply concerned that a generation of promising breast cancer researchers will be lost to other fields.

“While we fund young researchers, we’re also continuing to grant to established researchers whose work has led to significant progress against this disease,” she said.

Komen is funding nearly $16 million in new grants to early-career researchers – those who are still in training and those at the earliest stages of their research careers. The remaining funds are being granted to leading breast cancer scientists who have already made significant contributions to the field, and to support scientific programs and partnerships that advance Komen’s mission to end breast cancer forever.

Komen is the largest nonprofit funder of breast cancer research, with more than $847 million invested since its founding in 1982. But research is just one aspect of Komen’s mission: since 1982, Komen and its Affiliates have invested more than $1.8 billion in community health outreach and global programs that last year served more than half a million women and men facing breast cancer. More than 80 cents of every dollar Komen spends is devoted to mission programs.

Komen’s Investments in Texas

Komen’s research program is funded in part by contributions from local Komen Affiliates across the country, which annually contribute 25 percent of net funds raised in their local community to Komen’s research program, with the remaining 75 percent staying in the community to fund community outreach programs.  Since 1990, the Susan G. Komen® Houston has funded $48 million to community programs serving local women and men, and national breast cancer research programs.  This year, Susan G. Komen® Houston contributed over $900,000 to this year’s research grants program.

“We’re very proud that the funds we’ve raised in Houston, TX are not only providing real-time help to our neighbors, but coming back to our universities and hospitals for research that can save lives,” said Komen Houston executive director Adriana M. Higgins. 

In Texas, researchers will receive more than $3.9 million to investigate breast cancer biology, treatment and more.

University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

• $450,000 in funding to Jingsong Yuan, M.D., Ph.D., to examine the mechanism behind a specific type of DNA repair that occurs in cells,  in order to determine if there are yet-to-be identified factors that could contribute to sporadic breast cancer and potentially identify patients who would benefit from certain treatments.

• $450,000 in funding to Guang Peng, M.D., Ph.D., to study the impact of a molecule that has been shown that cause premalignant cells to accumulate mutations and become cancerous, known as APOBEC3B.  This enzyme is overexpressed in breast cancer tumors and cell lines, and can lead to unexpected clusters of mutations in breast cancers.

• $225,000 in funding to Komen Scientific Advisory Board Member Powel Brown, M.D., Ph.D., to identify the role of a group of enzymes known as phosphatases in the development and progression of ER-negative breast cancer, potentially providing the basis for the development of targeted treatments for patients with ER-negative breast cancer.

• $180,000 in funding to Jason Carey, Ph.D., to understand the development of BRCA1mutant breast cancer by examining how normal cells lose control of the cell cycle. Dr. Carey and team will also investigate the development novel treatment therapies for triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) by testing the treatment potential of therapies commonly used for patients with BRCA1 gene mutations.

• $200,000 in continued funding to Komen Scholar V. Craig Jordan, Ph.D., D.Sc., to investigate the molecular process of estrogen-induced apoptosis (cell self-destruction) in order to develop novel treatment options for breast cancer following the failure of other anti-hormone therapies.

• $200,000 in continued funding to Komen Scholar Mien-Chie Hung, Ph.D., to investigate whether inhibiting the activity of the enzyme EZH2, expressed in many cancer types and associated with poor TNBC prognosis, will suppress the growth of TNBC tumors and additionally reduce breast tumor initiating cells.

• $200,000 in continued funding to Komen Scholar William Symmans, M.D., to conduct a prospective trial to test the reliability and feasibility of a predictive test that has been shown to predict whether a person with newly diagnosed breast cancer would receive greater  survival benefit from neoadjuvant or adjuvant chemotherapy  treatment, as compared to a prior retrospective study.

• $175,000 in continued funding to Komen Scholar Funda Meric-Bernstam M.D., Ph.D., to investigate the mTOR pathway – a cellular pathway that can be activated in breast cancer – in order to identify patients likely to be resistant to therapies that target this pathway and translate that into clinical care.

• $62,500 in continued funding to Komen Scholar Gordon Mills, M.D., Ph.D., to continue research into combinations of HER2-tergeted drugs (Iressa, Lapatinib, and Neratinib) in order to combat treatment resistance seen in HER2 positive breast cancers.

Baylor College of Medicine

• Nearly $450,000 in funding to Xiang Zhang, Ph.D., to understand how myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC), immune cells with strong immunosuppressive activities, affect the immune system and promote tumor progression, and then develop strategies of blocking MDSCs, establishing treatment regimens that may be translated into clinical applications.

• Nearly $180,000 in funding to Subhamoy Dasgupta, Ph.D., to investigate the biological mechanisms associated with drug resistance in ER-positive breast cancer in order to develop novel therapeutics, with a focus on the metabolic enzyme PFKFB4 – a prime regulator of glucose-derived energy process in breast cancer cells.

• $200,000 in continued funding to Komen Scholar Melissa Bondy, Ph.D., to validate a current model for predicting response to treatment, and investigating methods of improving the accuracy of the model by also considering other events and  and epidemiological factors in order to advise and improve outcomes for patients with ER-negative early-stage breast cancer.

• $200,000 in continued funding to Komen Scholar Jeffrey Rosen, Ph.D., to test novel targeted therapies for the treatment of the basal subtype of triple negative breast cancer (TNBC ).

• $62,500 in continued funding to Komen Scholar Bert O’Malley, M.D., to better understand the roles of TRAF4 and ERK3 (a protein that promotes cell resistance to treatment and a protein that drives cell migration and invasion, respectively) play in driving breast cancer progression.

• $62,500 in continued funding to Komen Scholar Matthew Ellis, M.D., Ph.D., B.Chir., to study breast cancer tumors treated with hormone therapy prior to surgery to identify genetic changes associated with drug resistance or sensitivity.

Also in Texas

• Nearly $400,000 to Sally Vernon, Ph.D., and Luisa Franzini, Ph.D., of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston to train innovative and highly skilled young researchers and practitioners who are committed to the elimination of breast cancer disparities in order to improve outcomes for breast cancer patients of color and of low socioeconomic status.

• $225,000 in continued funding to Komen Scientific Advisory Board Member Amelie Ramirez, Dr.P.H., of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio to study whether an anti-inflammatory diet may reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence. A full list of Komen’s 2014 research grants can be found here.*

A list of community health programs funded by Komen Houston can be found here.

About Susan G. Komen®
Susan G. Komen is the world’s largest breast cancer organization, funding more breast cancer research than any other nonprofit while providing real-time help to those facing the disease. Since its founding in 1982, Komen has funded over $847 million in research and provided $1.8 billion in funding to screening, education, treatment and psychosocial support programs serving millions of people in more than 30 countries worldwide. Komen was founded by Nancy G. Brinker, who promised her sister, Susan G. Komen, that she would end the disease that claimed Suzy’s life. Visit komen.org or call 1-877 GO KOMEN. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

About Susan G. Komen® Houston
Established in 1990 by passionate volunteers to support the individuals in need throughout the Houston area, Komen® Houston has granted over $48 million to local programs for breast cancer education and awareness campaigns, life saving screening and treatment programs, and innovative cutting edge research. 

Serving Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty and Montgomery counties, Komen Houston continues its commitment to fundraising and grant making so that families battling breast cancer can get the treatment and support they need.   

If you would like to learn about volunteer opportunities, get information about the Komen Houston Race for the Cure® and other events, visit www.komen-houston.org or call 713-783-9188.