Komen 2015 Research Grants Include $447,000 to Washington University School of Medicine

Infographic 9-18-15 FRelease

Today, Susan G. Komen, the world’s largest nonprofit funder of breast cancer research, announced new grants to 124 researchers in 25 states and eight countries internationally, with about half of the grants targeted to early-career researchers squeezed by stagnation in federal research dollars.

The grants include more than $447,000 in new funding for research at Washington University School of Medicine, bringing Komen’s total research investment in Missouri to $22,372,092 since 1982.

The 2015 research grants expand Komen’s ongoing commitment to funding early-career scientists, that is, recent graduates and those trying to establish independent research careers. This group has been especially hard hit by real-dollar declines of as much as 25 percent in federal research funding over the past decade.

“We committed two years ago to do all that we can to ensure that talented early-career investigators remain in the breast cancer research field, while continuing our support for established researchers,” said Komen President and CEO Judith A. Salerno, M.D., M.S. “We cannot afford to lose talented scientists to other fields for lack of funding.”

This year’s research slate brings Komen’s total research investment to more than $889 million since 1982, the largest of any nonprofit, and second only to the U.S. government.

Grants from Komen’s nearly $36 million research portfolio – including more than $17.6 million in grants awarded to early-career investigators – span the entire cancer continuum from prevention to treatments for aggressive and metastatic disease. These include:

  • 36 grants to improve understanding of metastatic breast cancer
  • 18 grants investigating how tumors develop drug resistance
  • 19 grants related to the study of triple negative breast cancer – one of the most aggressive forms of the disease
  • 15 grants working to identify and understand biological and socio-economic health inequities
  • 13 grants seeking to develop new and novel therapies

Komen’s Investments in Missouri

Komen’s research program is funded in part by contributions from Komen’s nationwide network of Affiliates, which direct 25 percent of locally raised funds to Komen’s national research program. The remaining 75 percent of net funds are invested into community outreach programs that serve local women and men facing breast cancer.

“We are so proud to have the support of this community as we help our friends, coworkers and neighbors who are facing breast cancer, and work for continued progress against breast cancer through research,” said Helen Chesnut, Komen St. Louis executive director.

In Missouri, more than $452,000 will be invested into breast cancer research efforts in the state.

These funds include more than $447,000 to Adetunji Toriola, M.D., Ph.D., of Washington University School of Medicine to investigate the relationship between mammographic density and the RANK pathway, which was recently demonstrated to play an important role in the growth of breast cell types that contribute to breast density in pre-clinical studies and therefore may impact breast cancer risk.

A full list of Komen’s 2015 research grants can be found here. (Grants are contingent upon signed and executed contracts with Komen.)

In addition to funding breast cancer research, Komen has invested more than $1.95 billion into community health outreach and global programs that serve hundreds of thousands of women and men annually through breast cancer health and support programs that screen, educate and provide financial, medical and psychosocial assistance.

For more information about Komen’s mission investment, please visit komen.org.

For more information about Komen St. Louis, please visit komenstlouis.org.

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The Inter(n)view: Lexie Sprague

Guest Writer: Shelby Narike, Komen St. Louis Public Relations & Marketing Intern

Shelby and Lexie, Susan G. Komen St. Louis Public Relations & Marketing Interns, Summer 2015

Shelby and Lexie, Susan G. Komen St. Louis Public Relations & Marketing Interns, Summer 2015

Meet Lexie Sprague: Komen St. Louis Intern, Glitter Enthusiast, the Next Elle Woods.

Vital Stats
Full Name: Alexis Gabriele Sprague
Hometown: Streamwood, IL
Age: 20
College: Washington University
Majors: Marketing & Psychology

Fun Facts
Favorite meal: Dessert
Guilty pleasure: Glitter
Favorite flower: Carnation
Current Netflix addiction: Scandal
Favorite ice cream flavor: Mint Oreo

I had just arrived at my first staff meeting on the first day of my Komen St. Louis Internship when in walks a cheerful young lady with genuine enthusiasm and instant likeability: Lexie. Over the next 12 weeks, she would be my fellow intern—my phone-answering, T-shirt-folding, blog-posting, copy-making, data-entering partner-in-crime.

Lexie discovered the Komen St. Louis public relations and marketing internship at her university’s career fair for student athletes; Lexie plays soccer for WashU. She was immediately intrigued after hearing Bree DeGraw represent Susan G. Komen St. Louis. Lexie describes the reasons for her instantaneous excitement for the opportunity:

“1) I had no idea there was an affiliate office so close to WashU, 2) my mom has worked in mammography my whole life so I know she would be extremely proud of me for working with Komen and 3) Bree was looking to find a marketing and PR intern for their team! It was the GREATEST NEWS EVER. After a few email correspondences and a meeting, I found myself all set up with a real-person-summer-internship for a company whose mission I wholeheartedly supported.”

This “real-person-summer-internship” has her thinking about her future career. Lexie’s interests are vast and vary by season, just like her Starbucks orders (iced vanilla lattes or caramel macchiatos in the spring, pumpkin spiced lattes in the fall, and peppermint mochas in the winter). Her childhood-self wanted to be a veterinarian. She describes an “undeniable compassion for all the furry things in the world,” but she soon realized it was her truly her big sister’s dream, not her own.

As for her current dream job, Lexie gushes, “I would absolutely LOVE to plan weddings. I really enjoy getting to organize big lists of tasks; I love the color schemes, the flowers, the rehearsals, the catering, the dresses…Being in charge of one of the happiest days of a person’s life would be such an amazing job to have.”

As a young woman in her twenties, the world is Lexie’s oyster! Will she be a vet? A wedding planner? A PR & marketing director? Or possibly the next Elle Woods? If Lexie had to pick a movie to represent her life, she quickly declares, “Legally Blonde!” She explains, “I am super girly and probably give off that typical blonde impression to people, but I actually am a smart person! I also wanted to be a lawyer for a while, and even used her ‘We did it!’ line at the end of my graduation speech.”

Lexie is bubbly and driven, adorable and intellectual, blonde and ambitious, just like Elle Woods. She has an air of congeniality and success. Lexie’s movie persona, Elle, is right in alignment with her self-professed spirit animal: cat. As an avid cat lover, Lexie explains, “they’re just so independent and sassy and funny without trying to be.” This narrative fits Lexie’s personality well. She is a charismatic and amiably feisty go-getter.

Looking back on our time at Komen St. Louis, what moments stand out? Lexie responds thoughtfully, “I think I’ve felt the most proud of myself for finishing bigger projects, like mailing tons of shirts for Sleep in for the Cure or creating a pamphlet for Dine Out for the Cure, as well as for being so closely involved in Race for the Cure. But, now that I’m thinking back about my time at Komen St. Louis, I realize what stands out the most is who I’m working with. I have seen a level of compassion out of my “four new moms” [the Komen St. Louis staff] that I did not even believe to be possible, and have had so much fun hanging out with Shelby in Intern Headquarters. Whether it be cheering me up when I need it, genuinely caring about what is going on in my life, or simply making me laugh with their amazing sense of humor, it is an absolute pleasure seeing each of these women every single day. My time at Komen St. Louis would not be the same without them.”

Lexie is incredibly complimentary of the Komen staff; however, she complements the women of Komen well because she too has the passion and motivation that precede and sustain success. I am incredibly happy to have been able to work closely with her in our Intern Headquarters (a.k.a. the back office of Komen STL, where we have set up camp). Lexie, with her infectious laugh and her lively work ethic, has been the perfect Komen Kompanion for the summer.

Want to know more? Lexie’s here to Fill in the blanks.

I can’t live without my family. They are everything to me, and I would never be able to go a day without talking to them. Please note, this does include my cat, Pancakes.

Before I leave the house, I have to have my apartment keys! (I’m hoping if I write this down it will make me stop forgetting to grab them on the way out…).

If I’m running late, it is most likely because ________________. I’ll be the first to admit that I take forever to get ready in the morning. So if I’m late, there is a 99% chance that is the reason why.

I have way too many Lululemon headbands. I wear them for soccer practice/games, and my collection has grown to somewhere between 30 and 40 different colors. Do not ask me why, because I will not have a good explanation for you :/

Komen St. Louis Race Participants Provide Lifeline to Patients, Grants to Researchers

Two years ago, Joanne Wilson discovered a mass in her breast. New to her job, she hadn’t qualified yet for employer-sponsored health insurance. And her diagnosis wasn’t good: Stage III cancer.

“You don’t think about health insurance until you don’t have it and something happens,” said Wilson, 51. “It was a lot of pressure on me.”

Thanks in part to funds raised from the annual Susan G. Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure®, Wilson found treatment at Siteman Cancer Center.

The journey hasn’t been easy, of course. Wilson underwent surgery and multiple rounds of chemotherapy and suffers from lingering nerve damage. She hasn’t been able to return to work.

“But I’m here,” she said, celebrating seven months of remission. “Thank God I am here.”

Breast cancer patient Joanne Wilson (left) credits her daughter, Saffiyah Muhammad (right), friend Bernice McKinney (not pictured), Susan G. Komen St. Louis and others for helping her through treatment.

Breast cancer patient Joanne Wilson (left) credits her daughter, Saffiyah Muhammad (right), friend Bernice McKinney (not pictured), Susan G. Komen St. Louis and others for helping her through treatment.

The assistance Wilson received makes her an enthusiastic supporter of the Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure, to be held June 13 in downtown St. Louis. She’ll participate in the event with her team from Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church of Jennings.

“I would tell anyone, ‘walk the race, run the race, wear your pink, do whatever you’ve got to do to raise awareness about this horrible, horrible disease,’ ” Wilson said.

St. Louis-area Race participants have raised tens of millions of dollars to fight breast cancer. Of the net proceeds, 75 percent stays in St. Louis to help Siteman and other organizations provide breast cancer screenings and patient navigation support.

With Komen St. Louis funds, Siteman has increased the number of area women who have been screened and reduced the number who receive late-stage diagnoses. Services offered through the Breast Health Care for At-Risk Communities project include: education, outreach, diagnosis and referral to a medical oncology navigator for support during treatment.

“Komen St. Louis’ help is essential in Siteman’s outreach efforts,” said Susan Kraenzle, RN, manager of support services at Siteman. “Without Komen we simply would not be able to provide screening to the underserved at the levels we do.”

Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure registration fees and donations also fund research. To date, Washington University scientists at Siteman have received more than $20 million in Komen funding. The most recent grants were $450,000 each to identify:

  • New therapeutic options for hormone resistance caused by estrogen receptor gene aberrations in breast cancer patients. Jieya Shao, PhD, a Washington University assistant professor of medicine and Siteman Cancer Center member, is the lead researcher.
  • Estrogen receptor positive breast cancer patients who might not respond to hormone therapy, and to identify possible alternative therapies. Christopher Maher, PhD, a Washington University assistant professor of medicine, assistant director of the McDonnell Genome Institute and Siteman Cancer Center member, leads this project.

Race for the Cure participants in St. Louis make the grants possible, including the one that helped Wilson get the treatment she needed.

“I would not be alive today if it wasn’t for Komen St. Louis and Siteman putting me in touch with available resources,” she said. “That was one less thing I had to worry about.”

To register for or donate to the 2015 Susan G. Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure, visit www.komenstlouis.org/Race.

News: Susan G. Komen® Invests in the Future of Breast Cancer Research

Missouri Researchers Will Receive Nearly $900,000 in New Research Funding

DALLAS, TEXAS – Oct. 1, 2014 – Following through on a commitment to young scientists and clinicians, the Susan G. Komen® organization today announced new grants to more than 50 early-career breast cancer researchers – almost half of Komen’s $34.7 million investment in new breast cancer research funding for 2014.

The grants include nearly $900,000 in new funding for research at Washington University in St. Louis, bringing Komen’s total research investment in Missouri to more than $22 million since 1982.

“Our 2014 grants are intended to ensure continuity in breast cancer research for years to come,” said Komen President and CEO Judith A. Salerno, M.D., M.S. “With federal research dollars tightening, we’re deeply concerned that a generation of promising breast cancer researchers will be lost to other fields.

“While we fund young researchers, we’re also continuing to grant to established researchers whose work has led to significant progress against this disease,” she said.

Komen is funding nearly $16 million in new grants to early-career researchers – those who are still in training and those at the earliest stages of their research careers. The remaining funds are being granted to leading breast cancer scientists who have already made significant contributions to the field, and to support scientific programs and partnerships that advance Komen’s mission to end breast cancer forever.

Komen is the largest nonprofit funder of breast cancer research, with more than $847 million invested since its founding in 1982. But research is just one aspect of Komen’s mission: since 1982, Komen and its Affiliates have invested more than $1.8 billion in community health outreach and global programs that last year served more than half a million women and men facing breast cancer. More than 80 cents of every dollar Komen spends is devoted to mission programs.

Komen’s Investments in Missouri

Komen’s research program is funded in part by contributions from local Komen Affiliates across the country, which annually contribute 25 percent of net funds raised in their local community to Komen’s research program, with the remaining 75 percent staying in the community to fund community outreach programs.

Since 1999, the Susan G. Komen® St. Louis Affiliate has funded more than $29 million to community programs serving local women and men, while contributing more than $9 million to Komen research. Komen St. Louis contributed nearly $600,000 to this year’s research grants program.

“We’re very proud that the funds we’ve raised in the St. Louis region are not only providing real-time help to our neighbors, but also are coming back to our universities and hospitals for research that can save lives,” said Komen St. Louis Executive Director Helen Chesnut.

In Missouri, Washington University researchers will receive nearly $900,000 to investigate breast cancer treatment resistance.

  • $450,000 in funding to Jieya Shao, Ph.D., to understand how mutations in the estrogen receptor (ER) gene cause the receptor to become active without estrogen or amplify production of the ER protein – either of which may drive therapy resistance.
  • Almost $450,000 in funding to Christopher Maher, Ph.D., to investigate the mechanism of resistance to hormone therapy, particularly with regard to the potential impact of a newly identified class of genes called long intergenic non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs), by studying patients enrolled in two aromatase inhibitor clinical trials.

A full list of Komen’s 2014 research grants can be found here. Grant is awarded when agreement is signed with Komen.

A list of community health programs funded by the Komen St. Louis Affiliate can be found here.

For more information about Komen’s overall mission investments, please visit komen.org.

For more information about Komen St. Louis, please visit komenstlouis.org.

About Susan G. Komen®

Susan G. Komen is the world’s largest breast cancer organization, funding more breast cancer research than any other nonprofit while providing real-time help to those facing the disease. Since its founding in 1982, Komen has funded over $847 million in research and provided $1.8 billion in funding to screening, education, treatment and psychosocial support programs serving millions of people in more than 30 countries worldwide. Komen was founded by Nancy G. Brinker, who promised her sister, Susan G. Komen, that she would end the disease that claimed Suzy’s life. Visit komen.org or call 1-877 GO KOMEN. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

About Susan G. Komen® St. Louis

The mission of Komen St. Louis is to save lives and end breast cancer forever by empowering people, ensuring quality care for all and energizing science to find the cures. Komen St. Louis is dedicated to meeting the breast health needs of the women, men and families in its 17-county Missouri/Illinois service area. Through events like the Susan G. Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure® and other year-round fundraising opportunities, Komen St. Louis has invested more than $39 million in the fight against breast cancer. Seventy-five percent of the net funds raised here stays in the St. Louis community to fund breast health screening, education and patient navigation programs. The remaining 25 percent goes toward groundbreaking breast cancer research programs in St. Louis and beyond. Visit www.komenstlouis.org or call 314.569.3900. Connect with Komen St. Louis on Facebook and Twitter.

Komen-Funded Research: Using the Tumor DNA Blueprint of Breast Cancer Patients as a Key to Personalized Medicine

While there is not yet “a cure” for breast cancer, Susan G. Komen®’s continuous support of breast cancer research has led to many breakthroughs, including that breast cancer is no longer considered to be one disease, but rather a family of diseases; and better patient care, with new approaches and therapies to treating all types of breast cancers.

Historically, the vast majority of breast cancers have been treated the same way, with a standard regimen built around surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Very inadequate, therapeutic approaches have now been better tuned to the different types of breast cancers. Yet, research shows that patients who have the same type of breast cancer could still present significant differences when their tumors are further analyzed at the molecular level. That reality is what gave rise to personalized medicine: an approach that allows patients to receive treatment plans specifically tailored to them, instead of having to undergo treatments that have not been optimized for their specific type of cancer. And why our continuous support of cancer genomics is critical.

This exciting area of research has already led to better tools to manage breast cancer in a number of ways. In addition to discovering the different biological subtypes of the disease, it has brought the design of new targeted treatments, such as trastuzumab. For many years, the drug was only used to treat metastatic breast cancer, but it is now be used to treat early-stage HER2-positive breast cancers.

However, there is still much to be learned from the vast amount of information recently generated on the genetic code of breast cancer. For example, Komen will fund a study led by Dr. Richard Myers at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology that will analyze DNA blueprints from individual patients’ tumors with the goal of providing patients with the best treatment options available, and personalized to their specific tumor.

In another Komen-funded study, Dr. Christina Curtis at the University of Southern California will investigate differences in the genetic material of HER2-positive tumors before and after treatment with trastuzumab to develop a tool that will predict treatment resistance in patients receiving that drug. Dr. Curtis will then use this knowledge to design new therapies that will overcome resistance to trastuzumab.

Komen also will continue to support Dr. Andrea Richardson at Harvard Medical School. She is investigating whether mutations beneficial to tumors could be linked to increased autophagy, literally “self-eating.” Autophagy is a nutrient recycling process that is co-opted by tumor cells to feed their voracious appetite for growth. Insights into autophagy in tumor cells could be translated into new treatments that will weaken the autophagy progress in breast cancers presenting with specific DNA abnormalities that create an abnormal reliance on this process.

Komen is also funding groundbreaking, genomics-related breast cancer research right here in St. Louis at Washington University.

At Susan G. Komen, we are relentless in our pursuit of ending breast cancer forever.  The path to finding the cures might be long, and it might be hard. But 30 years ago, we embarked in a race that we must finish. By significantly investing in cancer genomics research, we will bring new and improved personalized treatments to breast cancer patients around the world. And with each new breakthrough, we will get one step closer to fulfilling our promise.

Komen St. Louis Community Partner: Washington University in St. Louis’ Breast Cancer Patient Navigator Project

Community Partner

Vanessa Finnie was unemployed and without health insurance when she discovered a lump in her right breast.

She had a feeling it was cancerous, but fear caused her to wait six years before seeking medical attention. She says, “It wasn’t the fear of having cancer; it was the fear of affording it.”

However, as she struggled to keep her apartment and find permanent work, the lump continued to grow. Eventually, in 2011, Vanessa sought treatment.

At the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center, Vanessa was diagnosed with bi-lateral invasive ductal cancer in her right breast and lobular carcinoma in her left breast. Then, she was introduced to Patient Navigator Vickie Knighten.

This is the 10th year of Komen St. Louis funding for Washington University’s Breast Cancer Patient Navigator Project. And Vickie has been there from the beginning.

As a full-time patient navigator, Vickie works with about 125 patients each year. Her job is to bridge the gap, whatever that gap may be, in order to reduce breast cancer mortality rates. She begins by working with patients as soon as their mammograms come back abnormal. “I try to find any resource possible to help,” she says.

This includes explaining medical terms and treatments in easily understood words, making sure patients know what to expect going through treatment, and lending emotional support by holding patients’ hands through treatment sessions.

“Some women don’t need as much help as others,” she says, “and a lot of them just need a friend.”

Vickie also works to ensure patients are able to continue with their treatment, despite any possible barriers. According to Vickie, the reasons some patients are noncompliant with their breast cancer treatment are varied and complicated. Some lack transportation and miss their appointments, while others must choose between working to pay bills and continuing their medication. Vickie makes follow-up calls if the women miss appointments, and she helps them apply for financial resources to keep roofs over their heads.

For patient Vanessa, Vickie was invaluable in providing many of these services.

“Vickie has been marvelous from the first appointment,” Vanessa says. “She listened to me when I needed help. She got in touch with a nurse to get my Social Security. If I needed gas for my car, she made sure I was all right. She even told me what to do when I was two months behind on my rent.”

Thanks to Vickie and the Breast Cancer Patient Navigator Project, Vanessa was able to complete her treatment. Now she intends to give back and reach out to other African-American women with breast cancer.

“It’s my life’s mission to help other women get through it,” she says. “The fact that I am a survivor is all the fuel I need.”

In 2013, Komen St. Louis granted $2.2 million to 13 local breast health programs in our 17-county Missouri/Illinois service area, including The Breast Cancer Patient Navigator Project at Washington University in St. Louis. These grants help fund breast health and breast cancer screening, education and patient navigation services for those in our community who otherwise may not have access due to low income, lack of insurance or other barriers.

Breast Cancer Science for Non-Scientists

Microsoft Word - CSC_SGKevent_021113

State-of-the-art breast cancer research is happening right now, right here in St. Louis.

We invite you to learn a bit about this research at a free educational event on Monday evening, Feb. 11. Find out how whole-genome sequencing of breast cancer is helping to identify opportunities for precise diagnostics and targeted therapy. It sounds science-y, but this presentation is designed for those of us who aren’t necessarily scientifically savvy.

Komen St. Louis and Cancer Support Community of Greater St. Louis are hosting the event in collaboration with Washington University researchers and St. Luke’s Hospital. We’re calling it “Updates in Breast Cancer Genomics: The Breast Cancer Landscape.”

Featured speaker Dr. Matthew Ellis, of Washington University and Siteman Cancer Center, is a Komen Promise Grant recipient. He’ll be joined by Dr. Chris Maher of the Genome Institute at Washington University.

Updates in Breast Cancer Genomics: The Breast Cancer Landscape | Monday, Feb. 11 | 6:30-8 pm | St. Luke’s Hospital Emerson Auditorium

Register online at http://www.cancersupportstl.org or call 314.238.2000.