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Marilyn B. Gula Mountains of Hope Foundation grants $100,000 to TGen

PHOENIX, Ariz. A gourmet culinary fte has raised $100,000 for groundbreaking breast cancer research at the non-profit Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

The Marilyn B. Gula Mountains of Hope Foundation raised the $100,000 through its 2nd annual "Cookin' for a Cure at Eddie's House," a fundraising event in March at award-winning chef Eddie Matney's exclusive Scottsdale restaurant.

Mountains of Hope has donated the funds to a research project led by Dr. Heather Cunliffe, head of TGen's Breast and Ovarian Cancer Research Unit. The research will focus on a specific and difficult-to-treat type of cancer called primary Luminal B breast cancer one of at least five major subtypes of breast cancer.

"We feel confident that this project will enable Dr. Cunliffe and her team to determine the genetic variables that are driving this particular type of breast cancer," said Phoenix businessman Allen Gula Jr., Chairman of the Mountains of Hope Foundation, whose late wife Marilyn died of breast cancer in 2006 following a decade-long battle against the disease. "This research is especially important to patients with advanced breast cancer, who have fewer treatment options."

TGen's goal is to learn enough about the possible genomic causes of Luminal B breast cancer to initiate a clinical trial within 3-5 years. Luminal B tumors account for approximately 19 percent of the nearly 227,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer each year in the U.S.

"We are entering a new era of evidence-based precision therapeutics for individual patients," Dr. Cunliffe said. "The goal of a clinical trial based on this study would be to prevent disease recurrence in patients with early stage Luminal B breast cancer through the use of targeted treatments."

A major problem with this type of cancer is the tumor's resistance to conventional chemotherapy. While Luminal B tumors are fueled by estrogen, they are often not responsive to anti-estrogen drugs. The disease also has a high propensity for recurrence and often spreads to other organs in the body, which then make it very difficult to treat.

Luminal B tumors are composed of genetically distinct populations of tumor cells that are both estrogen receptor positive, and estrogen receptor negative. Researchers will test their hypothesis that the severity of genetic changes in one or both sub-populations contributes to treatment failure and poor outcome for Luminal B patients. This work will be conducted in collaboration with Dr. Michael Barrett, head of TGen's Oncogenomics Laboratory.

"At the conclusion of this study, we aim to have identified genetic abnormalities that are unique to the estrogen receptor positive and estrogen receptor negative clones within Luminal B cancers," said Dr. Cunliffe.

With this most recent gift, the Marilyn B. Gula Mountains of Hope Foundation has contributed a total of $470,000 towards Dr. Cunliffe's TGen research.

"The Mountains of Hope Foundation, led by Al Gula, has brought incredible passion, commitment and energy to TGen's fight against the most aggressive breast cancers," said Michael Bassoff, President of the non-profit TGen Foundation. "There is no question that women around the world will benefit from the research funded by their generous contributions."


Contact: Steve Yozwiak
The Translational Genomics Research Institute

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