VICC Investigators Earn Breast Cancer Grants
October 23, 2014 | Dagny Stuart
Three Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) investigators have been awarded breast cancer research grants from the Susan G. Komen organization. The grants, which total $830,000, are part of the non-profit organization’s commitment to young scientists, as well as established investigators who are searching for more effective breast cancer therapies.
Justin Balko, Pharm.D., Ph.D., research assistant professor of Medicine, will receive $450,000 to determine if MEK inhibitor drugs may be beneficial when used in combination with neoadjuvant chemotherapy or following surgery to improve rates of survival in patients with triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) – an aggressive form of breast cancer with a poor prognosis.
Kareem Mohni, Ph.D., research fellow in the Department of Biochemistry, has been awarded $180,000 to study the mechanisms that control DNA repair in breast cancer. Mohni will examine specific genetic interactions with the protein ATR to try to create novel cancer therapies, particularly for TNBC.
Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D., Benjamin F. Byrd Jr. Professor of Oncology and director of VICC, will receive $200,000 in continued Komen Scholar funding. The support will help Pietenpol build upon previous Komen-funded research which led to the discovery of six subtypes of TNBC, each with distinct biological properties. Pietenpol and her team are working to translate this discovery into the development of novel targeted therapies for TNBC.
“The financial support from the Susan G. Komen foundation has been crucial to many of our discoveries and we are grateful for their continued confidence in the importance of our scientific endeavors to improve therapies for breast cancer patients,” said Pietenpol.
Komen’s total research investment in Tennessee is $11.7 million since 1982. The research program is funded, in part, by contributions from local Komen Affiliates which annually contribute 25 percent of net funds raised in their local community to Komen’s research program.
Over the past 12 years, the Greater Nashville Affiliate has awarded more than $4 million to community programs serving local women and men.
“We’re very proud that the funds we’ve raised in Middle Tennessee 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 Patty Harman, executive director of the Komen organization’s Greater Nashville chapter.