Breast cancer research foundation awards prestigious grant to two Loyola investigators

News Archive October 28, 2014

Breast cancer research foundation awards prestigious grant to two Loyola investigators

Organization names Loyola researchers among worldÂ’s leading scientists
MAYWOOD, Ill. – The Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) has awarded a grant to Kathy Albain, MD, FACP, and Clodia Osipo, PhD, to further their research at Loyola University Chicago’s Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center. Drs. Albain and Osipo received $250,000 for being among the world’s leading breast cancer scientists who are accelerating breakthroughs, improving outcomes and saving lives.

Dr. Albain, a medical oncologist, and Dr. Osipo, a basic science researcher, are co-leaders of Loyola’s Breast Cancer Research Program. Their research involves a novel therapeutic approach to treat breast cancer.

Existing cancer drugs are effective in killing mature cancer cells. But cancer stem cells, present in very small amounts in breast cancers, are resistant to such drugs. They survive and go on to develop into new tumor cells, resulting in cancer growth and spread to other parts of the body. A pilot study by Drs. Albain and Osipo found that an experimental drug known as a "Notch inhibitor" appears to block this process and prevent the survival and spread of drug-resistant breast cancer stem cells.

BCRF will award $47 million this year to 222 leading researchers at medical institutions across six continents. Grantees are selected through a highly competitive review process and then are given the creative and intellectual freedom to pursue what they believe to be the most promising research directions for their proposal.

Drs. Albain and Osipo, whose BCRF award was underwritten by The Housewares Charity Foundation, will use the funds to support their ongoing research involving the Notch protein. This protein is present on the surface of cancer cells. It promotes tumor growth and survival by latching on to other cells and activating various genes in the stem cells that make them resistant to common cancer drugs.

In the coming year, Drs. Albain and Osipo will focus on how the Notch protein regulates genes to cancer survival and drug resistance and the role for anti-Notch drugs to reverse this process. This research may ultimately help to predict breast cancer stem cell survival and patients who are likely to relapse as well as provide a new therapeutic option with anti-Notch drugs

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