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2014/2015 Annual Breast Cancer Research Grant Recipients

Dr. Julian Lum, BC Cancer Agency, Deeley Research Centre, Victoria

Project title:

Autophagy Regulation of Host Anti-Tumor Immunity in Breast Cancer

Project Overview:

Animals without autophagy activate a strong immune response. In this project, we wish to determine why and how blocking autophagy in the immune system prevents breast cancer. n the future, we envision giving therapies that block autophagy to enhance immunity with the goal of improving breast cancer outcomes.

Dr. Mohamed Khan, BC Cancer Agency, Vancouver

Project title:

Specific delivery of molecularly targeted inhibitor to triple-negative breast cancer through engineered nanoparticles

Project Overview:

The focus of our project is to present the potential to treat the population of triple negative breast cancer patients who express a surface protein called epidermal growth factor receptor. We and our co-workers have previously demonstrated that an engineered nanodevice can be utilized to purposely deliver an anticancer drug to tumours expressing a specific surface protein, increasing anticancer activity and lowering toxicity of the drug. Our goal for this project is to build a novel nanodevice engineered to bind to the epidermal growth factor receptor that will deliver a polo-like kinase 1 molecule inhibitor to triple negative breast cancer tumors. The success of this project will also demonstrate that nanotechnology can be utilized to revive targeted drugs with poor toxicity profile or pharmacokinetics, making wide an avenue for drug development.

Dr. Paul Rennie, Vancouver Prostate Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver

Project title:

The Development of Anti-estrogens with a Novel Mechanism of Action for Treatment of Hormone Resistant and Metastatic Breast Cancer
Project Overview:
The proposed research aims to use the combined power of modern computational and experimental technologies to develop an entirely new class of drugs that target other distinct region of the estrogen receptor, called AF2 site, for treating breast cancer which has developed resistance to current therapies. Our team will use computer-aided drug design, chemical modifications, anti-cancer assessments and comprehensive pharmacological studies to develop this new type of anti-ER drugs. We anticipate that these new anti-ER drugs will provide new options for treating patients with metastatic, hormone/drug-resistant breast cancer or supplement existing therapeutics which eventually would have a substantial impact on patient survival.

Dr. Rasika Rajapakshe, BC Cancer Agency, Centre for the Southern Interior, Kelowna

Project title:

Validation of Volumetric Breast Density as an Imaging Biomarker for Predicting Breast Cancer Risk
Project Overview:
This study proposes to establish the direct link between volumetric breast density and breast cancer risk for women in British Columbia. Once substantiated, volumetric breast density, together with other risk factor information, will be necessary for the screening mammography program to develop effective personalized breast screening strategies such as ultrasound screening for women with dense breast. The results of this study may have the potential to change the paradigm of early breast cancer detection from a uniform-screening method toward an individualized, risk/benefit based personal approach.

Dr. Torsten Nielsen, University of British Columbia, Vancouver

Project title:

Immune Response Biomarkers as Predictive Factors for Different anti-HER2 Targeted Therapies in Metastatic Breast Cancer
Project Overview:
Patients with HER2 positive breast cancer had very poor survival prior to the development of targeted therapies such as trastuzumab (Herceptin), an antibody drug that works both by blocking the HER2 oncogene and by enhancing antitumor immune responses. The MA.31 trial compared the efficacy of trastuzumab versus lapatinib – a drug blocking HER2 but not enhancing immune responses – in Canadian women with HER2+ metastatic breast cancer. Using this trial, we can test if pre-existing antitumor immune responses identify those patients needing antibody-based treatment, versus those who might do just as well on more conventional small molecule drugs. We will test if immune response markers predict better patient survival on trastuzumab versus lapatinib.