UVM scientist receives Susan G Komen Research Award to study aggressive breast cancer

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UVM scientist receives Susan G Komen Research Award to study aggressive breast cancer

Tue, 10/04/2016 - 6:44am -- Denise Sortor

Vermont Business Magazine Susan G Komen announced this week nearly $33 million in new research awards for investigators across the country whose research will contribute to Komen’s goal of reducing breast cancer deaths by 50 percent over the next decade. University of Vermont Cancer Center researcher and Assistant Professor Jason Stumpff, PhD, earned one of the highly competitive Komen grants, totaling nearly $500,000, to advance research focused on developing a targeted intervention for triple negative breast cancer—a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer.

It is now understood that there are many subtypes of breast cancer—each requiring specific treatment to optimize outcomes for a patient. Three subtypes are known to be fueled by one of either the hormone estrogen or progesterone or the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). While researchers have successfully developed treatments that target these subtypes, reducing side effects and improving outcomes for patients, there is currently no target drug or treatment available for patients whose breast cancers are found not to be fueled by one of these three factors. Referred to as triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), this aggressive cancer is now treated with drugs that non-specifically kill both tumor and non-tumor cells, an approach that results in many unwanted side effects caused by toxicity to normal cells. What’s needed is targeted TNBC therapies that can reduce tumor growth and recurrence, inhibit spread of cancer cells, and work specifically enough to limit negative side effects.

Stumpff and his team are already on the case; preliminary research they conducted suggests that these goals can be achieved by focusing on mechanisms that help cancer cells divide. Initial results indicate this approach would have minimal impact on normal cells, therefore reducing negative side effects for patients. The researchers are taking real-time information from breast cancer patients to inform, in a responsive way, the outcomes of their research. It’s an honor to receive this generous award from Susan G. Komen that will allow us to apply our findings in the lab to the development of improved patient care,” said Stumpff.  He predicts that his collaborative research approach will lead to a new class of therapeutics for TNBC patients.

The UVM Cancer Center will host its 19th Annual Women’s Health and Cancer Conference this Friday, October 7th at the Sheraton Burlington.