Dr. Wicha, M.D., Distinguished Professor of Oncology and Director of the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center, was one of the first to identify cancer "stem cells" in solid tumors, recognizing them in breast cancer tissue in 2003. Cancer stem cells are the small number of cells within a tumor that continually fuel the tumor's growth and spread, rendering the tumor resistent to today's therapies. Many researchers believe traditional chemotherapy and radiation treatments often become ineffective because they do not kill the cancer stem cells, and that the key to future treatments is to develop drugs that target and kill these cells. Research suggests that triple-negative breast cancers have a higher proportion of cancer stem cells.
Among women with breast cancer, triple negative breast cancer represents about 15 percent of diagnoses in Caucasian American women, but 26 percent in African American women and up to 82 percent in west African women. The grant proposal includes studying tumor cells from African and African-American women to look for molecular differences in triple-negative tumors. Laboratory research will look at whether targeting the breast cancer stem cells has an impact on these tumors.
"Through this research study, we will be able to provide key insights into whether or not cancer stem cells plays a role in the significant differences observed in death rates among women of west African origin who are more likely to be diagnosed with, and die from, this terrible form of cancer," said Dr. Heather Cunliffe, Head of TGen's Breast & Ovarian Cancer and a co-investigator on the study.
Researchers also plan to launch at least three clinical trials to investigate new treatments that target cancer stem cells. Based on the results of these trials, a larger r
|Contact: Steve Yozwiak|
The Translational Genomics Research Institute