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Five BCRF Grantees Receive NCI’s Outstanding Investigator Award

By BCRF | August 20, 2015

The prestigious grants will further their groundbreaking research projects over the next seven years

At BCRF, we are consistently proud of the achievements our 239 grantees have made in the field of breast cancer research. Their accomplishments, aided by BCRF funding, have led to critical discoveries on how cancer is diagnosed, treated and understood.

To that end, we are pleased to announce that BCRF researchers Drs. Stephen Hursting, Thomas Kensler, Mary-Claire King, Kornelia Polyak, and Geoffrey M. Wahl were recently granted the National Cancer Institute’s Outstanding Investigator Award

The prestigious award recognizes the exceptional achievements of cancer researchers with generous multi-year grants, providing a coveted opportunity to pursue high risk/high reward research projects and time to develop new techniques.

We congratulate the following five BCRF grantees on their NCI Outstanding Investigator Awards:

Dr. Stephen Hursting at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, a BCRF grantee since 2003, was granted $5.3 million to advance his work on revealing the biologic mechanisms underlying the link between obesity and cancer risk. 

“BCRF funding was absolutely essential to generate the data and collaborations that led to the NCI proposal. If not for BCRF, I probably would not have had the opportunity to pursue the line of research that  combines mechanism-focused preclinical and clinical research on breast cancer prevention,” Hursting told BCRF.

Dr. Thomas Kensler at the University of Pittsburgh, a BCRF grantee since 2013, was granted $4.9 million to prove that chemoprevention – particularly food-based chemoprevention – offers a practical opportunity to reduce risks associated with exposure to environmental carcinogens and other toxins.

 “My BCRF research intersects nicely with the NCI award in which I am studying how a signaling molecule called Nrf2 works to detoxify environmental carcinogens. BCRF supports my studies on how a phytochemical called sulforaphane, found in broccoli, affects Nrf2 signaling to influence breast cancer risk. Thus, there is a synergistic relationship between the two projects that will accelerate our progress in this area,” Kensler told BCRF.

Dr. Mary-Claire King at the University of Washington, a BCRF grantee since 1997, was granted $6.4 million to pursue her research on genomic analysis of inherited breast and ovarian cancer.

“Support from BCRF led to identification of the true risks of breast and ovarian cancer among BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers, and to the development of BROCA (next generation sequencing for all breast cancer genes).  We cannot yet prevent all of breast and ovarian cancer but thanks to BCRF, we can prevent all breast and ovarian cancers due to inherited mutations in these genes,” King told BCRF.

Dr. Kornelia Polyak at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, a BCRF grantee since 2008, was granted $7.2 million to further her research on tumor heterogeneity – the finding that tumors are made up of a diverse collection of cancer cells with very different properties. Tumor heterogeneity is considered a major obstacle in the understanding and treatment of cancer, and it is a factor also used to predict tumor evolution and individualized treatment strategies.

“If not for BCRF, we would not have been able to conduct our studies on breast tumor heterogeneity and evolution, become one of the leaders of this field, and develop an integrated approach to the design of truly individually optimized breast cancer therapies,” Polyak told BCRF.

Dr. Geoffrey M. Wahl at the Salk Institute, a BCRF grantee since 2005, was granted $8 million to use innovative approaches that integrate stem cell, developmental and cancer biology to identify the cellular and molecular underpinnings of cancer heterogeneity, and to derive new targets for more effective diagnosis and treatment.

“If not for BCRF, we would not have been able to perform the developmental analysis that links mammary stem cells to triple negative breast cancer, nor developed the models for future progress,” Wahl told BCRF.

Additional Outstanding Investigator Award Recipients are being notified on a rolling basis as their grants are processed. A complete list will be made available by October.