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Susan G. Komen® Announces New Research Grants To Conquer Breast Cancer Disparities

Grants awarded at Komen-led Breast Cancer Disparities Research Summit

Susan G. Komen®, the world’s leading breast cancer organization, today awarded grants to three researchers who are working to better understand and address why certain populations of breast cancer patients have different outcomes, including why African-American women in the U.S. are 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than Caucasian women. The grants were made possible through the support of Genentech, a member of the Roche Group.

Susan G. Komen announced the new grants in conjunction with its first annual Breast Cancer Disparities Research Summit, the only event of its kind in the U.S. focused on breast cancer disparities. Through these new grants and the Summit, Komen is prioritizing the understanding of the biologic, behavioral, social and systems-related causes of breast cancer in patient populations that experience poor breast cancer outcomes.

“Susan G. Komen has long been dedicated to improving breast cancer outcomes in underrepresented populations, particularly through research to learn more about the aggressive and metastatic breast cancers that disproportionally impact these women and men,” said Victoria Wolodzko, Komen’s senior vice president of mission. “Too few of today’s research studies adequately represent the populations that most need lifesaving breakthroughs. The grants awarded today help to ensure populations at risk for disparities in breast cancer outcomes are represented in research studies and can benefit from advances in care.”

The Komen Breast Cancer Disparities Research Supplemental Grants provide up to $250,000 in support over two years to bring a disparities research lens or focus to the scope of work conducted by the researcher. The grant recipients are:

  • Bryan Schneider, M.D., of Indiana University in Indianapolis, IN., 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), which 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., 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., 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.      

More than 50 researchers gathered at the Summit to discuss ideas and share resources focused on the differences and challenges seen in minority communities to move the field forward. Participants are studying a full range of topics to address breast cancer disparities which include identifying the genetic and molecular differences among populations, creating risk assessment models for specific populations, leveraging Big Data to understand disparities, strategies to increase minority representation in research, and evaluating how financial and/or treatment toxicity impacts survival amongst populations.