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Susan G. Komen Research® Grant Advances Understanding Of New Therapeutic Target In Metastatic Breast Cancer Patients

A new study examining how to harness one’s immune system to eliminate metastatic breast cancer (MBC) tumors in the body is receiving a three-year $600,000 grant from Susan G. Komen®, the world’s leading breast cancer organization. This grant joins Komen’s active portfolio of over $65 million currently invested in metastatic breast cancer research.

The pre-clinical research project titled, “Supplementing Effects of Immunotherapy for Metastatic Breast Cancer,” led by Susan G. Komen Scholar Alana Welm, Ph.D., from the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, aims to determine how targeting a protein could enable the immune system to block a mechanism that drives the spread of breast cancer, known as metastasis, to other parts of the body.

“Finding the cures for MBC will only be accomplished through new innovative research such as the project Dr. Welm is leading,” said Victoria Wolodzko Smart, SVP of Mission at Susan G. Komen. “Understanding more about this potential therapeutic target could lead to a promising new treatment option for people with metastatic breast cancer, and we hope it could one day save thousands of lives lost every year to MBC.”

Welm and her team have identified that a protein found in the body called sfRon kinase regulates T-cell activity, a component of the immune system, and their ability to kill breast cancer cells.

Welm and her research team will analyze how sfRon kinase functions and test how a promising new drug called a RON inhibitor could enable one’s immune system to eliminate deadly micro-metastatic tumors and kill breast cancer cells before they spread. RON inhibitor drugs have completed phase I clinical trials with favorable results, and this study aims to better understand how these drugs work with the immune system to fight MBC.

“Understanding the function of sfRon kinase and its role in metastasis brings us closer to determining how to intervene to kill cancer cells before they spread. The immune system holds tremendous potential in intervening early and this grant could help us advance a targeted therapy option for people living with MBC,” said Welm.

MBC, also known as stage 4, is the most advanced stage of breast cancer and remains incurable today. Only 30 percent of women with MBC in the U.S. live at least 5 years after diagnosis. MBC is responsible for most of the nearly 44,00 breast cancer deaths that were expected to occur in the US this year.

Susan G. Komen’s Excellence in Metastatic Breast Cancer Research grant awarded to Welm is made possible through Komen’s fundraising campaign for metastatic breast cancer in October. Learn more about Susan G. Komen’s innovative research to help find the cures for breast cancer, including the nearly $248 million invested in MBC research since 1992.