Komen Announces $31 Million in 2017 Funding for 98 New Breast Cancer Research Grants

Grants Focus on Aggressive and Metastatic Cancers.
Pennsylvania Researchers Receive $2,814,583.

Susan G. Komen, the world’s leading breast cancer organization, today announced 2017 research funding of $30.7 million for 98 research grants, with a focus on new treatments and understanding of the most lethal forms and stages of breast cancer. Komen funding to institutions in 27 states and 7 countries also includes research into new screening technologies, treatments for metastatic and aggressive types of breast cancer and disparities in breast cancer outcomes.

The grants include $2,814,583 in new funding for research at six institutions in Pennsylvania, bringing Komen’s total research investment in Pennsylvania to $60,875,437 since 1982.

“We are focused on new treatments, ways to overcome drug resistance in breast cancer patients, and a better understanding of how and why breast cancer spreads, so that we can better treat metastatic breast cancer or prevent it all together,” said Ellen Willmott, interim president and CEO of Susan G. Komen. “This focus on aggressive and metastatic disease is the foundation of our Bold Goal to reduce U.S. breast cancer deaths by 50 percent by 2026.”

Metastatic breast cancer – which is breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body like the brain, liver, bones or lungs – is responsible for almost all of the nation’s 40,000 annual breast cancer deaths. More than 154,000 women are living with metastatic disease in the U.S. today. By targeting metastatic disease, Komen is hoping to reduce breast cancer deaths dramatically in the U.S.

This year’s funding also includes $17.6 million to early-career investigators. “Funding for early-career researchers ensures a continuum of breast cancer research, across generations, which is critical in a time of tightening federal research dollars,” Willmott said.

Komen’s 2017 portfolio includes*:

  • 37 grants expanding our knowledge of metastatic breast cancer and how to better treat it or prevent it;
  • 37 grants looking into novel treatments for aggressive types of breast cancer (specifically, triple negative, inflammatory breast cancer luminal B, and ER-positive recurrent breast cancer).
  • 59 grants focused on new therapies, including 10 for targeted therapies and 20 for drug development
  • 24 investigating drug resistance (why drugs stop working in some patients)
  • 9 on disparities in breast cancer outcomes and 2 involving Big Data

*Eds Note: Numbers may add to more than 98 because individual studies may be classed in more than one category.


Komen’s Investments in Pennsylvania

Komen’s research program is funded in part by contributions from Komen’s nationwide Network of Affiliates, which directs 25 percent of funds raised locally to Komen’s national research program, while investing the remaining 75 percent into community outreach programs that serve local women and men facing breast cancer.

Since 1995, Komen Philadelphia has funded $26,378,999 to community programs serving local women and men, while contributing $11,726,238 to Komen research since 1997.

“We are so thankful for the friends, family and neighbors that fight alongside us, helping to reduce the number of breast cancer deaths in Pennsylvania, both on the ground and through research,” said Elaine I. Grobman, CEO of Komen Philadelphia. 

In Pennsylvania, researchers will receive…

The Research Institute of Fox Chase Cancer Center 

  • Neil Johnson, Ph.D., will receive $300,000 to determine if a drug called E707 can be used to kill BRCA1-driven breast tumors that have become resistant to PARP inhibitors (drugs that target a protein called PARP). E707 is a drug that prevents cancer cells from repairing damaged DNA. This study should help determine if E707 can be used to treat BRCA1 mutant breast cancer when PARP inhibitor drugs no longer work.

University of Pennsylvania

  • Komen Scholar Susan Domchek, M.D., will receive $600,000 to continue a registry to follow individuals that have had genetic testing and tested positive for known breast cancer mutations or mutations associated with unknown risk.  The registry will help researchers better understand the risks associated with different mutations, which could lead to improvements in prevention and breast care.
  • Elizabeth Chislock, Ph.D., will receive $180,000 to study how disseminated tumor cells (DTCs), found in the bone marrow, can survive treatment that killed other tumor cells. These studies can provide crucial information on how breast cancer resistance and recurrence develops in some patients.
  • Amilia Gastounioti, Ph.D., will receive nearly $180,000 to compare conventional 2-dimensional digital mammography (DM) to an emerging x-ray technology that provides a 3-dimensional breast tissue visualization called digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT). Dr. Gastounioti will also study the use of DBT as a risk assessment tool to move beyond the “one-size-fits-all” approach in breast cancer screening.

University of Pittsburgh 

  • Komen Scholar Adrian Lee, Ph.D., will receive $600,000 to continue his research on molecular changes in brain and bone metastasis.  Previous work identified a specific mutation in brain metastases and further work will continue to determine the significance of molecular changes, which may help identify new therapeutic targets and treatments.

Temple University

  • Shoghag Panjarian, Ph.D., will receive $120,000 to understand how “good” genes that prevent tumor growth and “bad” genes that cause cancer can be turned on or off in breast cancer.  Identification of these genes could lead to a better understanding of how cancer develops and provide new therapeutic targets.
  • The Wistar Institute

    Qing Chen, M.D., Ph.D., will receive $450,000 to study how astrocytes, the most abundant cell type in the brain, may be able to encourage breast cancer cells that have spread (metastasized) to the brain to grow and flourish. The goal of this research is to better understand the interactions between brain and breast cancer cells to develop therapies that can be used to treat brain metastases.

Pennsylvania also has 9 ongoing grants, awarded in previous years including grants to Komen Scholars David Mankoff, M.D. and Steffi Oesterreich, Ph.D.

The American Association for Cancer Research will receive nearly $400,000 to support conferences focused on the latest advances in breast cancer research, treatment, prevention and health disparities, and provide scientific awards that recognize investigators for significant contributions to the field.  These scientific meetings will offer investigators networking opportunities and stimulate collaborative interdisciplinary interactions and partnerships among the leaders of the scientific and patient advocacy communities worldwide. 

These new funds bring Komen’s total research investment in breast cancer to more than $956 million since opening its doors in 1982, the largest of any nonprofit and second only to the U.S. government. In addition to research, Komen and its nationwide network of Affiliates serve women and men in thousands of communities. To date, more than $2.1 billion has been invested in community programs that provide education, screening and treatment support.

(Grants are contingent upon signed and executed contracts with Komen)

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