Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Comprehensive Cancer Center have been awarded a $6.4 million grant from two national nonprofit groups that are partnering in the fight against an aggressive and difficult-to-treat form of cancer called “triple negative” breast cancer.
The grant is from Susan G. Komen for the Cure® and the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation.
The $6.4 million will be used to evaluate experimental drugs in combination with standard therapies to treat triple-negative tumors, which are more common in young African-American and Hispanic women. UAB scientists also plan to explore ways to better predict which therapies will be most effective in certain breast cancer patients.
“During the next 10 years we hope to improve the prognosis of women with triple-negative breast cancer with the development of new and more effective treatments,” said UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center researcher and project leader Andres Forero, M.D. “This grant is important recognition for the work of UAB scientists and clinicians, and it reflects on our excellence in translational research.”
Triple-negative breast tumors lack receptors for the hormones estrogen (ER-negative) and progesterone (PR-negative), and for the protein HER2. This makes them resistant to several powerful cancer-fighting drugs like tamoxifen, aromatase inhibitors and Herceptin.
The triple-negative research project started after the Birmingham-based Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama provided UAB with funding for early experiments.
The research is a partnership between Tong Zhou, M.D., a UAB professor of immunology and rheumatology; Donald Buchsbaum, Ph.D., a UAB professor of radiation oncology; Kurt Zinn, Ph.D., a UAB professor of radiology; and Albert F. LoBuglio, M.D., the director emeritus of the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center. The team will collaborate with researchers at the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
Launched in 1982, Susan G. Komen for the Cure has become the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists funding research that organizers hope lead to new cures. The Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation was launched in 2006 in honor of Nancy Block-Zenna, a New Jersey mother who was diagnosed at age 35 with triple negative breast cancer and died less than three years later.
UAB’s Comprehensive Cancer Center is the only one within a five-state region to have the U.S. National Institutes of Health comprehensive designation. UAB’s Lynn Cohen Clinic offers a team approach to cancer risk assessment, treatment and survival care.