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Susan G. Komen® Funds Research Project That Addresses Breast Cancer Disparities

Research Focuses on Breast Cancer Detection in African American and European Women

Susan G. Komen®, the world’s leading breast cancer organization, today announced the funding of a research project by Harikrishna Nakshatri, Ph.D., of Indiana University, that seeks to make progress toward identifying early biomarkers of breast cancer risk for individuals who are experiencing disparities in their health and care. The announcement comes at a time when we’re seeing first-hand the disparities different races and populations experience from various diseases, including COVID-19, and the need for equitable care.

Dr. Nakshatri will receive $250,000 to help develop better genetic biomarkers for breast cancer risk in women of African and European ancestry. Through funding made possible by Amgen, he will use a platform called a tissue microarray that can compare tiny samples of breast tumor, tissue around the tumors, and normal breast tissue from women of African, European and other ancestries. Importantly, this tissue microarray will include a significant number of samples from underrepresented populations.

Using this tissue microarray, Dr. Nakshatri will study how breast tissue biology differs between these populations and how genetic ancestry can impact breast cancer risk and outcomes. Understanding if there are differences in biology may help research scientists better appreciate differences in response to therapy and lead to more personalized care for breast cancer patients. 

Victoria Wolodzko, senior vice president of Mission at Susan G. Komen, said, “if we’ve learned one thing from COVID-19, it’s that the time to improve outcomes and address health disparities is long overdue. We’re pleased that the work of Dr. Nakshatri will improve our understanding of the role of biology in driving disparities in breast cancer outcomes, particularly in African American women who, on average, have a more than 40 percent chance of dying of breast cancer than Caucasian women. Although we urgently need more answers to save lives, African American women are not well-represented in research studies. Work like Dr. Nakshatri’s will help change that.”

Disparities in outcomes, whether it be from breast cancer or of COVID-19, exist when people from different racial or ethnic backgrounds, or those who live in certain communities, die at higher rates than the average. By supporting research focused on populations who experience disparities, and through supporting researchers like Dr. Nakshatri seeking outcome-based answers, we are working towards bringing effective treatments to all populations.