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The highly competitive grants provide each investigator $100,000 in funding over a two-year period.

Published Jan 19th, 2024

By Lindsay Hughes

Four researchers from the USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute and the Frederick P. Whiddon College of Medicine at the University of South Alabama recently were awarded grants from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama (BCRFA). Presented during an event in Birmingham last December, the awards were part of the organization’s $1.25 million investment in state-based research in 2023.

Among this year’s grant recipients are Simon Grelet, Ph.D., assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology; Santanu Dasgupta, Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology; Chandrani Sarkar, Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology; and Ajay Singh., Ph.D., professor of pathology. The researchers will examine different aspects of breast cancer, the most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women in the United States. 

The highly competitive grants provide each investigator $100,000 in funding over a two-year period. The awards act as seed funding for early-stage studies, allowing researchers to generate crucial data needed to attract major national grants. 

“This year’s monumental investment by the BCRFA solidifies our ongoing legacy as a driver of pivotal research within Alabama,” said Beth Davis, president and CEO of the BCRFA. “Our support spans critical facets, from pioneering early detection strategies to fostering groundbreaking treatment innovations. These investments will deliver hope and tangible advancements to those battling breast cancer.”

Grelet’s study aims to identify the genetic mechanisms governing the nerve-cancer interface in innervated triple-negative breast cancer, with the long-term goal of developing novel targeted therapies against this aggressive cancer subtype. 

Dasgupta’s research focuses on the role mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) alteration plays in tumor recurrence. The study will investigate the potential of mtDNA mutation detection in predicting breast cancer recurrence and progression early.

Sarkar’s project examines the role of lymphangiogenesis – the process of lymphatic growth from preexisting lymphatic vessels – in the spread of breast cancer, with the ultimate aim to develop newer therapeutic approaches targeting lymphangiogenesis for treatment of breast cancer patients. 

Singh’s lab is exploring a novel mechanism of endocrine resistance that may be at play to sustain the growth of breast cancer cells following endocrine therapy. The data generated will form the basis for a larger multi-year study relevant to precision oncology and alternative therapeutic management of breast cancer.

Also during the event, postdoctoral fellows Amod Sharma, Ph.D., and Prabhat Suman, Ph.D., presented posters to share research findings from their BCRFA-funded projects from last year. 

Founded in 1996, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to find a cure for breast cancer by funding promising breast cancer research in Alabama and raising community awareness and funding for that research.

Hear the BCRFA's Beth Davis discuss breast cancer research on The Cancering Show podcast, powered by the USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute.

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