Research Grant Recipients
The following are some of the research grant recipients being supported by the Foundation:
Dr. Erica Mayer – Clinical Research Oncologist at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute: Dr. Mayer will be studying the vascular injury and hypertensive liabilities of avastin which limit its therapeutic potential. Understanding this problem could improve treatment regimes and ultimately outcomes as well.
Dr. Dongjoo Lee – Clinical Research Oncologist at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Institute: Dr. Lee’s research project is to develop a chemical synthesis of the potent novel carbohydrate-based glycopeptides anticancer vaccine candidate that will be evaluated for immunogenecity against a variety of human cancer.
Dr. Hanna Irie - Harvard Medical School; Department of Cell Biology: Dr. Irie will be studying the basis of the resistance of cancer cells to undergo anoikis, a form of programmed cell death. Using siRNA screens in cellular models of human breast cancer. Dr. Irie hopes to define important genes that render cancer cells immortal and difficult to eradicate.
Dr. Kirsten Fertuck - Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/HMS; Department of Medical Oncology: Estrogen has a well documented but only partially understood role in etiology of breast cancer even though the activity of several successful drugs are modeled on this important hormone. Dr. Fertuck’s project is designed to provide a more precise picture of how estrogen interacts with the breast cancer genome. This knowledge could lead to improved chemotherapies and treatment regimes.
Dr. Carl Bialucha - Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory: The loss of certain genes is thought to be a causative factor in the initiation and progression of breast cancer. Dr Bialucha has developed a sophisticated technology that can correctly identify the specific gene deletions that drive breast cancer. Results from these studies could lead to a new generation of therapies and diagnostic tools.
Dr. Qing Zhang - Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Department of Medical Oncology: Normal cells have a remarkable ability to sense oxygen and nutrients in their environment and to respond. Cancer cells possess the same machinery but respond in an unhealthy metastatic manner. Dr Zhang is studying one such oxygen sensing system in breast cancer cells that is believed to provoke tumors to grow in an uncontrolled fashion. A fundamental understanding of this biological system could lead to new therapeutic targets and strategies.
Dr. Penghui Zhou – Harvard Medical School
The immune system’s major weapon, the T-cell, attacks tumors but it quickly gets deactivated in the tumor environment. Dr. Zhou is dedicating his research to understanding why this occurs with the hopes of learning enough about this process to overcome it. His goal is to pinpoint the key genetic and biochemical defects in tumor infiltrating T-cells that inhibit their effectiveness by using state-of-the-art technology designed to find ways to reprogram these T-cells thereby restoring their activity.
Dr. Devika Gajria – Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center
One of the great frustrations in treating breast cancer results from some patients being resistant to therapies that work successfully in others. Dr. Gajria believes that such resistance can be overcome by combining two novel clinical drugs whose activities could synergize and provide enough potency to overcome such resistance. Dr. Gajria will first find the most appropriate dosing regimen to administer this combination and then study it in breast cancer patients whose disease cannot be cured with other drugs.
Priscilla Brastianos, MD – Dana Farber Cancer Institute
Dr. Brastianos’ research will study the unique gene mutations that lead to brain metastases that occur in breast cancer patients. Brain metastases occur in up to 30% of patients with metastatic breast cancer. Survival continues to be dismal and ranges from 3 months to 23 months after the diagnosis of a metastasis in the central nervous system. Using a rapid and robust technique called whole-exome sequencing; Dr. Brastianos hopes to rapidly identify the genes that direct metastases to the brain which should open new avenues to both predict and to treat this currently terminal condition.