October 24, 2019

Pietenpol, Wilson land Komen cancer research support

Two Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center investigators have received financial support from Susan G. Komen for breast cancer research.

Two Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) investigators have received financial support from Susan G. Komen for breast cancer research.

Their projects were among 60 grants totaling $26 million awarded to researchers nationwide.

Those initiatives are focused on improving outcomes for metastatic breast cancer, reducing disparities in survivorship and developing new, more effective treatments.

John Wilson, PhD

“Breast cancer does not affect everyone equally, and with the grants we’re funding this year we’re moving closer to new therapies for aggressive forms of cancer, understanding why treatment doesn’t work in some patients and making sure everyone has access to the care they need,” said Paula Schneider, chief executive officer of  Susan G. Komen.

John Wilson, PhD, assistant professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Biomedical Engineering, will receive $449,616 for his project investigating chemo-immunotherapy combinations for metastatic breast cancer.

His overall goal is to leverage nanotechnology and molecular engineering approaches to develop new immunotherapeutic modalities for treating metastatic breast cancer. His multidisciplinary team is focused on developing and optimizing a new class of nanoparticles for enhancing the activity, utility, therapeutic potency and safety of small molecule activators of the stimulator of interferon genes (STING) pathway, as well as to understand how to best combine STING agonists with other types of therapeutics to improve responses to immunotherapy in metastatic breast cancer.

Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD

Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD, Executive Vice President for Research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and director of VICC, will receive $400,000 to identify therapeutic approaches for different types of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), including defining biomarkers of response and resistance to chemoimmunotherapy in TNBC tumors from patients with metastatic disease.

Pietenpol is also the Benjamin F. Byrd Jr. Professor of Oncology, holds the Brock Family Directorship in Career Development and is a Komen Chief Scientific Advisor.

“Vanderbilt is honored to receive this Susan G. Komen research support aimed at developing new, more effective treatments for metastatic disease — an unmet medical need in breast cancer,” Pietenpol said.

Susan G. Komen has set a goal to reduce the number of breast cancer deaths in the U.S. by 50% by 2026. The nonprofit has  funded more breast cancer research initiatives than any other organization outside the federal government. The new funding brings Komen’s total research investment to more than $1 billion since the organization’s founding in 1982.

Thirty-eight of the 60 grants awarded are focused on better understanding metastasis.

“In order to save more lives, we must address the main cause of cancer deaths: metastatic breast cancer,” said George Sledge, MD, Komen Chief Scientific Advisor, professor of Medicine and chief of the Division of Oncology at Stanford University.