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TGen, Karmanos, U. of Michigan Partner on Komen-Funded Study

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation has granted $3.5 million to a trio of research institutes to study triple-negative breast cancer in African and African-American women.

Researchers at the Translational Genomics Research Institute, the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, and The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center will use the funding in a collaboration aimed at understanding why African and African-American women are at increased risk of this type of cancer and translating their discoveries into treatment

Breast cancer treatments generally are based on the presence of three specific biomarkers, but these are absent in patients with triple-negative breast cancer. The most successful treatments have targeted these markers, but these therapies don't work in triple-negative breast cancer patients.

Triple-negative breast cancer accounts for around 15 percent of diagnoses in Caucasian-American women, but 26 percent in African-American women and up to 82 percent in West-African women.

Other partners that will support the research include Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and the Van Andel Research Institute.

The researchers also will launch at least three clinical trials to study new treatments that would target cancer stem cells, and based on those results will undertake a larger clinical trial.

"Our goal is to unlock the clues as to why patients with triple-negative breast cancer so often fail to respond to available therapies, and to design new ways to more effectively treat this difficult form of cancer," Director of TGen's Integrated Cancer Genomics Division, John Carpten, said in a statement.

The researchers will study tumor cells from African and African-American women in search of molecular differences in triple-negative tumors, and then try to find out if targeting breast cancer stem cells has an impact on those tumors.