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Earlier Detection of Breast Cancer

CBCF’s inaugural National Grants Competition focused on proposals aimed at advancing new technologies to find cancer at its earliest stages, discovering or validating markers and understanding the psychosocial ramifications of earlier breast cancer detection.

Eight innovative new projects aimed at earlier detection of breast cancer have received over $3.2 million in funding from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

Two panels of international and Canadian experts, co-chaired by Dr. Brian Wilson and Dr. Samuel Aparicio, reviewed 41 proposals submitted by research teams from across Canada. Eight projects were selected on the basis of scientific excellence and potential impact on breast cancer, and includes projects from across Canada, involving multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary teams, and bringing over $1.3 million in partner organization contributions to this important area of breast cancer research.

Recipients of the 2012 CBCF National Grants Competition on Earlier Detection:

Somatostatin receptor antagonists for early detection of breast cancer with positron emission mammography 

Led by Dr. François Bénard (BC Cancer Centre).

Positron emission mammography (PEM) is a promising technology for detecting smaller breast cancers at an early stage, but is currently limited by the imaging markers, or radiotracers, that currently miss upto 20% of tumors. This research will focus on studying a new generation of radiotracers that target somatostatin receptors, molecules that are present in almost all breast cancers. This research holds promise for improving the early detection rate of breast cancer in women who are at high personal risk.

Next Generation Diagnostic Breast Imaging Technology

Led by Dr. Scott King (National Research Council, Winnipeg)

With superior soft tissue contrast and higher sensitivity, MRI is an ideal diagnostic imaging method for the early detection of breast cancer in high risk patients that is limited primarily by the long MRI exam time of 30-45 minutes and its high cost. The team intends to utilizenanotube technology to improve sensitivity and imaging speed, thereby increasing diagnostic accuracy and reducing time and cost. Ultimately, this research hopes to improve access to breast MRI screening and provide the best and earliest detection method for breast cancer.

Molecular Imaging of Highly Invasive Breast Cancer Subsets using Novel Peptide Mimetics

led by Dr. Leonard Luyt (Western University)

This project will aim to capitalize on the finding that a molecular interaction between two molecules (Hyaluronan and RHAMM) can predict aggressive disease that has the potential to spread. The team will develop imaging agents using compounds that target RHAMM for use in positron emission tomography (PET), which will allow for non-invasive detection of breast cancer – especially aggressive or metastatic tumors – at an earlier stage.

Using prior information to improve the early detection of breast cancer with MRI

Led by Dr. Anne Martel (Sunnybrook Research Institute)

Because normal tissue and benign lesions can appear suspicious in magnetic resonance images (MRI), women suffer unnecessary anxiety of further testing and sometimes biopsies.The team will develop computer aided diagnostic (CAD) tools using information from previous patient visits and using a large MRI database to create an atlas of likely cancer sites. This information will assist the radiologist and improve the accuracy of MRI screening for earlier detection and lead to reduced recall rates.

Early stage breast tumor detection using spintronic based microwave imaging sensors

Led by Dr. Stephen Pistorius (University of Manitoba/Cancer Care Manitoba)

Microwave imaging using low power electromagnetic waves holds the potential to scan for breast tumors without the need for breast compression. The team intends to explore the use of spintronic nanosensors to create images with sufficient resolution, specificity and sensitivity to allow breast cancer to be detected earlier, without an increase in false positives. This technology is expected to be more comfortable, safe, simple, portable and cost effective, making it amenable for screening in remote and developing areas and for improving the accuracy of breast cancer diagnosis.

Detection of mutations in gene variants of uncertain significance in inherited breast and ovarian cancer

Led by Dr. Peter Rogan (Western University)

While mutations that disrupt the function of the breast cancer-linked genes BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 are common to all patients with a family history of breast cancer, in as many as 90% of all breast cancer cases, no deleterious mutation can be recognized. The hypothesis is that many harmful mutations have not been recognized because they occur in parts of these genes that have not been analyzed. This project will identify genetic variants within currently unsequenced gene regions of BRCA-1, BRCA-2 and other less common early-onset breast cancer genes, to predict which of these variants might be associated with causing of cancer.

Phase II clinical trial to validate4FMFES accuracy and prognostic valueforearly detection of hormonal sensitive breast cancer and metastasis

led by Dr. Eric Turcotte (Université de Sherbrooke)

About 75% of primary breast cancer tumors have significant levels of estrogen receptors and can be targeted for hormone therapy. Dr. Turcotte and his colleagues have developed a labeled form of estrogen for use in positron emission tomography (PET) that acts as molecular probe to visualize estrogen receptor in tissues throughout the body. The team proposes a phase II clinical trial to test this probe as a more sensitive tool to assess breast cancer, check for its spread, and predict the benefit of hormonal therapy. This research hopes to provide a new tool to guide physicians on providing optimal therapeutic intervention.

International Trial of Digital Tomosynthesis for Breast Cancer Screening

Led by Dr. Martin Yaffe (Sunnybrook Research Institute)

The research will explore whether 3D digital tomosynthesis provides a more accurate image than current 2D digital mammography, thereby improving the accuracy of earlier screening and reducing the number of missed tumors.