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$4.5 million for nine breast cancer research projects


Montreal, QC – Nine breast cancer research projects in Quebec are receiving a total of $4.5 million in funding from the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation.

The grants range from $100,000 to $125,000 per year, over a four-year term. The selected projects have, among others, such goals as better understanding how cancerous cells function; developing medication and a vaccine against breast cancer; improving diagnosis; and finding new hereditary links that could help explain the prevalence of breast cancer among certain Quebec families.

“Once again this year, the many high-quality applications we received reveal the energy and vitality of Quebec’s breast cancer research community,” said Francine Cléroux, the foundation’s chief executive officer. “As our understanding of the different types of breast cancer continues to improve, we can hope for even more targeted treatments with fewer side effects. Breast cancer affects more women in Quebec than any other kind of cancer, but thanks to the advances made in recent years, the five-year survival rate has reached 88%. The investment announced today, brings us closer to a future without breast cancer.”

The research projects are as follows:

Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation tissue microarray consortium for biomarker evaluation. Dr. Anne-Marie Mes-Masson, Professor — Department of Medicine, Université de Montréal, Head — Cancer Axis, University of Montreal Hospital Research Center (CRCHUM). QBCF grant amount: $500,000. Project goal: Give local researchers access to thousands of breast tissue samples. Project summary: Tissue microarrays allow thousands of samples to be investigated in a single experiment at a relatively low cost. Dr. Mes-Masson and her team have set up a large bank of tissue and clinical information from breast cancer patients. With this project they aim to create a series of tissue microarrays with samples from 2,000 patients they have clinically monitored, and to put this very valuable resource at the disposal of the Quebec scientific and clinical community.

Targeting aberrant poly(ADP-Ribosylation) in metastatic breast cancer. Dr. Michael Witcher, Assistant professor of medicine, Institut Lady Davis. QBCF grant amount: $500,000. Project goal: Finding a new therapeutic target in preventing metastasis. Project summary: Metastasis is responsible for the great majority of breast cancer deaths. In previous work, Dr. Witcher studied a new pathway by which cancer cells can become metastatic. He now aims to show that this pathway is a therapeutic target for preventing metastasis.

Acetylation of the breast cancer suppressors BRCA1, BRCA2 and PALB2: from functional insights to an anti-cancer approach. Dr. Jacques Côté, Professor and researcher, CHU de Québec/Université Laval. QBCF grant amount: $498,460. Project goal: Find a new way to eradicate cancer cells. Project summary:: Cancer cells can be formed by errors resulting from defective processes. Homologous recombination, which is involved in DNA repair, is one such process. Dr. Côté and his team aim to understand how certain changes in the proteins encoded by the BRCA1/2 and PALB2 genes can alter a cell’s ability to repair its DNA. Ultimately, this research could help to reduce the viability of cancer cells.

High-throughput in silico and in vitro platforms to target tumor-stroma codependencies. Dr. Morag Park, Director, Rosalind and Morris Goodman Cancer Research Centre, McGill University. QBCF grant amount: $499,580. Project goal: Finding a new use for existing medications. Project summary: This project aims first of all to simulate and reproduce in laboratory conditions the interaction between triple-negative breast cancer cells and the normal cells around them. This interaction plays a role in the progress of cancer and the development of resistance, making it a promising therapeutic target. Next, Dr. Park’s team will use the resulting models to identify and test numerous medications to quickly identify whether existing treatments can act on these interactions in patients with triple-negative breast cancer.

Translational studies of novel anti-metastasis molecules capable of reprogramming the differentiation status of invasive breast cancer cells. Dr. Moulay Alaoui-Jamali, Professor — Department of Oncology, McGill University, Researcher — Segal Cancer Centre, Jewish General Hospital. QBCF grant amount: $500,000. Project goal: Developing a medication to prevent metastasis. Project summary: A large majority of breast cancer deaths are due to metastases in the vital organs. With this project, Dr. Alaouai-Jamali and his team are proposing an innovative therapeutic approach in which metastatic or potentially metastatic cancer cells would be reprogrammed in specific ways, instead of being attacked with often toxic agents.

The immunopeptidome of breast cancer cells. Dr. Claude Perreault, Professor, Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer, Université de Montréal. QBCF grant amount: $500,000. Project goal: To use the immune system against breast cancer. Project summary: Immunotherapy involves using a cancer patient’s immune system to attack cancer cells, a sort of cancer vaccine. To help advance such treatments, Dr. Perreault’s team is working to identify antigens or parts of cells that would be present only on cancer cells and can become targets for the immune system. Dr. Perreault’s work will focus on triple-negative breast cancer, a subtype of cancer for which fewer treatment options currently exist.

Molecular mechanisms of the transition from a normal to malignant epithelial state in early breast cancer. Dr. Luke McCaffrey, Assistant professor, Rosalind & Morris Goodman Cancer Research Centre, McGill University. QBCF grant amount: $451,656. Project goal: Improving diagnosis in the early stages of the disease. Project summary: Dr. McCaffrey aims to identify the first key steps in a normal breast tissue cell’s transformation into a cancer cell. With this new knowledge, Dr. McCaffrey hopes to assist clinicians in diagnosing cancer and establishing a treatment plan.

New generation diagnostics in breast cancer. Dr. Mark Basik, Surgeon and researcher, Jewish General Hospital. QBCF grant amount: $499,992. Project goal: Improving diagnosis in order to help match the right patient with the right treatment. Project summary: Today, we know that breast cancer is not just a single disease. Accordingly, the more we know about the specific characteristics of a person’s cancer, the more effectively it can be treated. Dr. Basik is proposing a new way to predict the risk of post-surgery recurrence by analyzing genetic information of the cancer cells circulating in the bloodstream.

The genetics of breast cancer in Quebec populations: twenty years after BRCA1/2. Dr. William Foulkes, Cancer geneticist and researcher, McGill University Health Centre. QBCF grant amount: $500,000. Project goal: Determine why certain Quebec families are at very high risk of developing breast cancer. Project summary: The 1990s saw the discovery of a link between certain types of mutations (BRCA1 and 2) and an increased risk of breast cancer. Since then, our understanding of heredity as a risk factor has greatly advanced. Dr. Foulkes’ team aims to identify new mutations that would help to explain why certain Quebec families
are more frequently affected by breast cancer, and to offer them prevention and risk reduction strategies.