Research and Training Grants in Breast Cancer

The American Cancer Society funds scientists and medical professionals who research cancer or train at medical schools, universities, research institutes, and hospitals throughout the United States. We use a rigorous and independent peer review to select the most innovative research projects to fund.

Spotlight on Breast Cancer Grantees

Here are some examples of the research areas and scientists the American Cancer Society funds. These investigators are working to find answers that will save more lives from breast cancer and improve the quality of life for patients and their families.

New Hope for People with Triple-negative Breast Cancers

Grantee: Nicolas Navin, PhD
Institution: University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston
Focus Area: Tumor Biology and Genomics
Research Phase: Preclinical and Discovery
Term: 7/1/2016 to 6/30/2020

About 12% of breast cancers are triple-negative. This type of breast cancer can be tougher to treat.  Until now, triple-negative breast cancers have also been hard to study. But Navin developed a new way to sequence genes to find mutations that may be the most aggressive in triple negative tumors. 

With his American Cancer Society grant, Navin and his team will use their method to learn if these mutations provide resistance to treatment. They’ll do that by analyzing tumor samples before and after chemotherapy. The hope is that this study and process will allow doctors to predict how a patient’s tumor will respond to treatment. That would allow them to better personalize treatment plans. The researchers expect that their work could start improving the quality of life and survival in those with triple-negative breast cancer within the next 5 years. 


Wearable, Painless Device May Help Personalize Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer

Grantee: Darren Roblyer, PhD
Institution: Boston University
Focus Area: Clinical Cancer Research and Epidemiology
Research Phase: Preclinical and Translational
Term: 7/1/2014 to 6/30/2018

Fiber optic communication sends information using pulses of light through an optical fiber. You’re likely most familiar with this technology’s use in telephone systems, cable TV, and internet. Spectroscopy is a technique that uses light to learn about the physical properties of something, such as its temperature and composition. Roblyer and his research team use fiber optics and spectroscopy together to see inside breast tumors. Their technology is called Diffuse Optical Spectroscopy (DOS). 

Using his grant from the American Cancer Society, Roblyer is creating a small DOS for patients to wear during chemotherapy. He plans to test it in breast cancer patients in a clinical study. Roblyer’s goal it to use the device to monitor a patient’s response to chemotherapy and adapt the treatment in real time. If DOS becomes part of the standard of care, many cancer patients could benefit by receiving only drugs and dosages that effectively treat their tumors. And doctors will be able to make timely changes in treatments to avoid drug resistance and side effects. 

How Overweight Dads May Affect Their Daughter’s Risk for Breast Cancer

Grantee: Sonia de Assis, PhD
Institution: Georgetown University in Washington, DC
Focus Area: Clinical Cancer Research and Epidemiology
Research Phase: Discovery and Preclinical
Term: 7/1/2014 to 6/30/2018

About 1 in 3 breast cancers run in families. But only about 30% of those can be explained by mutations in genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA 2. That leaves the remaining inherited cases without a specific known cause. This study could uncover a new mechanism of inheritance for breast cancer. De Assis is leading the first studies in mice on familial breast cancers and their link to specific epigenetic factors – specifically whether there is a link between obese fathers and their daughters. Epigenetic changes are changes to the way your genes work that can be caused by lifestyle matters, such as diet and weight gain. 

With her American Cancer Society grant, de Assis will compare results in humans to the ones she had in mice. She’s especially interested in studying whether the increase in breast cancer risk in daughters can be transmitted to granddaughters and great-granddaughters. Plus, epigenetic mutations are potentially reversible. That means this study has the potential to revolutionize the prevention and treatment for a sub-set of familial breast cancers.


Bilingual DVDs May Increase Follow-up Care in Latina Breast Cancer Survivors

Grantee: Hayley Thompson, PhD
Institution: Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan 
Focus Area: Psychosocial and Behavioral Research 
Research Phase: Population Study
Term: 7/1/2012 to 6/30/2017

Guidelines from The American Society of Clinical Oncology advise that all breast cancer survivors have a mammogram once a year. Studies show that Latina survivors are less likely to follow through on these guidelines than white survivors. A main reason seems to be communication difficulties with healthcare systems.  

Thompson’s focus is to understand and eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in cancer prevention and control. With support from a grant from the American Cancer Society, Thompson and her research team will develop and test 2 bilingual DVDs. Women will have the choice of listening in English or Spanish. Both DVDs will review the screening guidelines, but only one will have key points explained by Latina breast cancer survivors. 

Researchers expect that the women who watch either DVD will be more likely to get the yearly mammograms than those who don’t see one. And they expect the DVD with Latina breast cancer survivors will improve follow-up even more. The study has the potential to both reduce deaths of Latina women from breast cancer and provide more resources to doctor’s office and clinics. 


Searching for the Source of Invasive Breast Cancers

Grantee: Nikki Cheng, PhD
Institution: University of Kansas Medical Center
Focus Area: Cell Structure and Metastasis
Research Phase: Basic Research
Term: 7/1/2013 to 6/30/2018

Cheng is researching mechanisms responsible for invasive breast cancer. Specifically, Cheng is investigating whether a protein her lab discovered, called CCL2, plays a role in breast cancer progression and relapse. She hopes this research will lead to the development of new strategies for more effective diagnosis and treatment of invasive breast cancer.

Overcoming Treatment Resistance In HER2/neu Breast Cancers

Grantee: Carlos L. Arteaga, MD
Institution: Vanderbilt University Medical Center
American Cancer Society Clinical Research Professor

Arteaga is researching new ways of treating breast cancer patients with the HER2/neu gene who do not respond to or become resistant to existing drugs. By gaining an understanding of how certain breast cancers resist anti-HER2/neu therapies, Arteaga hopes his findings will lead to the development of new combination HER2/neu treatment options for breast cancer patients.

From Our Researchers

The American Cancer Society employs a staff of full-time researchers who relentlessly pursue the answers that help us understand how to prevent, detect, and treat cancer, including breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Research Videos

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