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New Research Grants To Conquer Breast Cancer Disparities

Susan G. Komen has been working toward better understanding and addressing why certain populations of breast cancer patients have different outcomes. As part of this, we’ve primarily focused on African-American women, who are 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than Caucasian women.

Although we know some things about the discrepancies in outcomes between these two populations, there is more work to be done. To date, too few research studies adequately represent the populations that need the most lifesaving breakthroughs.

That’s why Komen is pleased to award up to $250,000 to three researchers who are helping to better understand what can be done to improve outcomes for African-American women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.  These researchers are looking at the role genetics, environment, income and resources play in a breast cancer patient’s life and her outcome will be impacted. Their work will also help to incorporate new populations into research studies.

The three grant recipients are:

Bryan Schneider, M.D., of Indiana University in Indianapolis, IN. Dr. Schneider will study how genetic ancestry affects how African-American women respond to breast cancer therapy, focusing on a serious side effect called taxane-induced peripheral neuropathy (TIPN). TIPN is linked to worse outcomes in African-American patients. In addition, Dr. Schneider will study the information and communication needs of African-American patients, to build a shared decision-making tool that will help patients work with their physicians to make the best treatment decisions. These studies will address the disparity of TIPN for African-American women, leading to better outcomes for these patients.

Mary-Claire King, Ph.D., of The University of Washington in Seattle, WA. Dr. King will use new scientific approaches to find the genetic basis for the higher rate of Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) in African-American women. Dr. King will study the role of complex genetic mutations, not detectable by standard sequencing methods, in over 80 cases of inherited TNBC in African-American women. These studies will help inform treatment decisions and improve outcomes in African-American women diagnosed with TNBC.

Anne Rositch, Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. Dr. Rositch will address the disparity in breast cancer mortality in low resource settings by implementing and evaluating patient advocacy, navigation and referral programs in Tanzania. The goal of this work is to develop community-based programs to help patients, with limited access to resources, stay in the continuum of care. Dr. Rositch’s work will help patients overcome barriers to care and improve breast cancer outcomes in low-income areas across the globe.

The grants were announced in conjunction with Susan G. Komen’s Breast Cancer Disparities Research Summit and were made possible through a partnership with Genentech, a member of the Roche Group.

Researchers at the summit discussed ideas and shared resources that focused on the differences and challenges seen in minority communities to move the field forward. It was the first summit of its kind to be held in the United States.