Baylor College Scientists Receive Breast Cancer Research Grant

A $450,000 research grant is targeting triple negative breast cancer and HER2-positive breast cancer.

Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine recently were awarded grants to support studies regarding treatments for triple negative and HER2-positive breast cancers.

The Susan G. Komen Foundation awarded Xi Chen, PhD, assistant professor of molecular and cellular biology in the Breast Center at Baylor College, a grant of $450,000 to determine the efficacy of RE001 on triple negative breast cancer, according to a press release from the college.

RE001 inhibits the XBP1 protein, which is associated with this type of aggressive breast cancer. Triple negative breast cancer typically does not respond to targeted treatments, but may respond to chemotherapy. However, this type of cancer is aggressive, and more likely to recur than other breast cancers, according to the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation.

This novel research aims to determine if the XBP1 protein would be a beneficial treatment target in patients with triple negative breast cancer, since current targeted treatments are insufficient. If the results from Dr Chen’s study are positive, RE001 will be studied further in clinical trials, according to the press release.

“I am very honored to be awarded the prestigious Susan G. Komen Career Catalyst Research grant,” Dr Chen said. “This award will tremendously help us to establish a world-class research program to study the pharmacological targeting of unfolded protein response in triple negative breast cancer to ultimately develop a targeted therapy to this deadly disease.”

Meghashyam Kavuri, PhD, was also awarded $450,000 from the foundation to determine novel drug targets for HER2-positive breast cancer. This type of cancer is notoriously difficult to treat, since it tends to develop resistance to long-term treatments. By discovering new drug targets, it is likely that patients will have better outcomes, according to the press release.

“Traditionally, HER2 amplification has been the only major therapeutic target in breast cancer. However, genome sequencing of human tumors is uncovering alternative mechanisms of HER2 activation, a search initiated in part by our recent discovery of activating HER2 mutations, a major clinical problem in HER2 tumors,” said Dr Kavuri. “The Komen funded project will address these issues using different proteomic-based approaches.”

Dr Chen and Dr Kavuri received this award at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in December 2016. These grants are part of the Foundation’s ongoing mission to fund cancer research with the hope that breast cancer mortality will be decreased by 50% over the next 10 years, according to Baylor.

“It is wonderful to be able to continue the Breast Center’s legacy of training young scientists at the beginning of their faculty careers with Komen support,” said Matthew Ellis, MD, PhD, director of the Breast Center. “Both Shyam and Xi are very deserving recipients, and we expect their work will have great impact.”