Susan G. Komen Issues 2013 Grants

Massachusetts researchers will receive nearly $4.7 million.

Susan G. Komen announced Monday that the organization is awarding $4.7 million in new funding to researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School. The money will be used to study the role that environmental issues play in breast cancer development. In total, Komen will award $42 million in 2013 to various researchers and organizations across the country.

The 2013 Massachusetts research grants will focus on gene mutations, breast cancer treatments, and preventing disease recurrence. Dana-Farber received the majority of the grants, which include:

  • Andrea Richardson, M.D., Ph.D., receives $1 million to study autophagy, a process of “self-digestion” in some cancer tumors that allows cancer cells to survive and conserve energy.  High autophagy levels have been linked to cancer recurrence and resistance to standard therapies. Richardson’s team will investigate the underpinnings of autophagy and test drug combinations that may successfully combat it.
  • Three studies involve HER2 breast cancer, an aggressive form of the disease that is diagnosed in approximately 25 percent of breast cancer patients. Komen research is focused on understanding and finding personalized treatments for aggressive forms of the disease. The three studies include:

$250,000 to Komen’s co-Chief Scientific Advisor Eric Winer, M.D., to conduct clinical trials on HER2+ breast cancer.

$450,000 to Susan Moody, Ph.D., and $175,000 to Ian Krop, M.D., Ph.D., for separate studies into why HER2 treatments become ineffective over time. Moody’s team will identify and test gene mutations with an eye toward identifying targets for treatment. Krop’s team will investigate the mechanisms by which patients develop resistance to the standard treatment tastuzumab (Herceptin).

  • Nadine Tung, M.D.,will receive $100,000 for clinical trials to test the addition of the drug cisplatin to standard chemotherapy for women with genetically based BRCA-associated breast cancers. Currently, the same treatment regimens are used for breast cancer in BRCA mutation carriers as well as non-carriers. Tung’s team will be studying the effect of adding cisplatin to standard treatments for these cancers.
  • Ann Partridge, M.D., will receive $100,000 to study the fertility concerns of young women diagnosed with breast cancer. Partridge conducted a survey of 478 women under 40, newly diagnosed with breast cancer, which found that concerns about having children in the future influenced some patients’ cancer treatment decisions.
  • David Livingston, M.D., is investigating why women carrying the mutant BRCA1 gene develop breast cancer, and why women in BRCA1-affected families develop cancer while men, in general, do not. In a separate study, Shailja Pathania, Ph.D., is focused on finding early defects in cells of BRCA1 mutation carrying women with a goal of stopping them before they spread. The two studies will receive a total of $675,000 to investigate how the BRCA1 gene mutation develops into breast cancer.
  • Joan Brugge, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School receives $225,000 to investigate the role two proteins play in the initiation and spread of lobular breast cancer.

When we broke the news locally that the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Race had been canceled in Boston for 2014, may people were upset. But the Executive Director of Komen MA, Ronni Cohen-Boyar, assures us that the organization’s main fundraising race is the “Race for the Cure” and that will still take place. “With the support of our wonderful donors, this allows us to continue to fund local education, screening and treatment programs right here in the Commonwealth,” she says. “The Komen affiliate also funded more than $10.1 million to community health programs that provide screenings, financial aid and social and emotional support to women and families throughout the state.”

A list of local public health programs funded by Komen MA in 2013-14 can be found here.

“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,” Cohen-Boyar says. “We’re thankful for our supporters who help us serve our communities here at home, while supporting our education and research institutions.”