Texas Researchers Receive $3,339,228 in Research Funding

DALLAS – September 26, 2017 – Susan G. Komen, the world’s leading breast cancer organization, today announced 2017 research funding of $30.7 million for 98 research grants, with a focus on new treatments and understanding of the most lethal forms and stages of breast cancer. Komen funding to institutions in 27 states and 7 countries also includes research into new screening technologies, treatments for metastatic and aggressive types of breast cancer and disparities in breast cancer outcomes.

The grants include $3,339,228 in new funding for research at five institutions in Texas, bringing Komen’s total research investment in Texas to $108,847,202 since 1982.

“We are focused on new treatments, ways to overcome drug resistance in breast cancer patients, and a better understanding of how and why breast cancer spreads, so that we can better treat metastatic breast cancer or prevent it all together,” said Ellen Willmott, interim president and CEO of Susan G. Komen. “This focus on aggressive and metastatic disease is the foundation of our Bold Goal to reduce U.S. breast cancer deaths by 50 percent by 2026.”

Metastatic breast cancer – which is breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body like the brain, liver, bones or lungs – is responsible for almost all of the nation’s 40,000 annual breast cancer deaths. More than 154,000 women are living with metastatic disease in the U.S. today. By targeting metastatic disease, Komen is hoping to reduce breast cancer deaths dramatically in the U.S.

This year’s funding also includes $17.6 million to early-career investigators. “Funding for early-career researchers ensures a continuum of breast cancer research, across generations, which is critical in a time of tightening federal research dollars,” Willmott said.

Komen’s 2017 portfolio includes*:

  • 37 grants expanding our knowledge of metastatic breast cancer and how to better treat it or prevent it;
  • 37 grants looking into novel treatments for aggressive types of breast cancer (specifically, triple negative, inflammatory breast cancer luminal B, and ER-positive recurrent breast cancer).
  • 59 grants focused on new therapies, including 10 for targeted therapies and 20 for drug development
  • 24 investigating drug resistance (why drugs stop working in some patients)
  • 9 on disparities in breast cancer outcomes and 2 involving Big Data

*Eds Note: Numbers may add to more than 98 because individual studies may be classed in more than one category.

Komen’s Investments in Texas

Komen’s research program is funded in part by contributions from Komen’s nationwide Network of Affiliates, which directs 25 percent of funds raised locally to Komen’s national research program, while investing the remaining 75 percent into community outreach programs that serve local women and men facing breast cancer.

Since 1992, Komen North Texas has funded $11,368,571 to community programs serving local women and men, while contributing $2,899,765 to Komen research since 1997.

“We are so thankful for the friends, family and neighbors that fight alongside us, helping to reduce the number of breast cancer deaths in Texas, both on the ground and through research,” said Mary Frances Hoover, Executive Director of Komen North Texas.

In Texas, researchers will receive…

Baylor College of Medicine

Komen Scholar Matthew Ellis, M.B, B. Chir, Ph.D, will receive $400,000 to study how DNA changes (mutations) in ER+ early stage breast cancer affects the success of anti-hormonal therapies.  Identifying the mutations that cause poor outcomes will help guide treatments and clinical trials with the overall goal of preventing recurrence and mortality.

Komen Scholar Jeffrey Rosen, Ph.D., will receive $500,000 to continue to study a protein, Plk2, which may function as a tumor suppressor in triple negative breast cancer (TNBC).  This work aims to identify new therapeutic strategies for TNBC.

Jitendra Meena, Ph.D., will receive $180,000 to find new ways to target a protein called MYC, which is important in triple negative breast cancer. Targeting MYC directly has not led to successful treatments; therefore, this research will evaluate the use of other pathways that interact with MYC with the goal of finding new therapeutic targets for treatment.

University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

Zhijie Liu, Ph.D., will receive $450,000 to develop a new way to overcome drug resistance in estrogen receptor (ER) positive breast cancer. Dr. Liu is studying the complex machinery that the estrogen receptor uses to turn genes on, with the aim to prevent this machinery from assembling, which may prevent hormonal therapy resistance.

University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

Jingzhen Ding, Ph.D., will receive $180,000 to study MAPK12, a specific protein increased in breast cancer cells that spread to the brain. MAPK12 may enable these cells to gain needed nutrients in the unfamiliar brain environment.  A further understanding could lead to potential drug targets and offer better treatment options against breast cancer cells spreading to the brain.

Ruli Gao, Ph.D., will receive $180,000 to investigate TNBC cells that do not respond to chemotherapy. Dr. Gao will look at thousands of individual tumor cells and surrounding normal cells of patients treated with chemotherapy to identify the cellular ecosystem and how it changes with treatment.

Daniel McGrail, Ph.D., will receive nearly $180,000 to study both the proteins and the molecular pathways necessary to repair DNA damage in triple negative breast cancer (TNBC).  TNBC cells often show signs of stress as the DNA replicates as part of cell growth, and the proteins that cause this stress may provide a targeted treatment for TNBC patients.

Omar Rahal, Ph.D., will receive nearly $180,000 to investigate why inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) has a high rate of recurrence following radiation therapy. Dr. Rahal will focus on understanding how the tumor environment affects resistance to radiation therapy.  This information could be used to improve the treatment of IBC.

Lorna McNeil, Ph.D., and Kelly Hunt, M.D., will receive more than $400,000 to create the MD Anderson Training Program to Reduce Breast Cancer Disparities in Black and Hispanic Women. Graduate students will combine coursework with individually tailored research projects and interactive community-based and clinical breast cancer experiences to develop novel strategies to improve the lives of black and Hispanic women with and at risk for breast cancer.

The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

Sally Vernon, Ph.D., and Maria Fernandez, Ph.D., will receive $405,000 to continue the Graduate Training Program in Breast Cancer Disparities at University of Texas School of Public Health. Trainees will conduct research to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in breast cancer.

UT Southwestern Medical Center

Kyung-min Lee, Ph.D., will receive $180,000 to study the role of MCL1, a protein that contributes to the survival of cancer stem cells in triple negative breast cancer and is often seen with chemotherapy resistance.  Dr. Lee proposes blocking the survival signal from MCL1 to prevent cancer stem cell survival and resistance.

These new funds bring Komen’s total research investment in breast cancer to more than $956 million since opening its doors in 1982, the largest of any nonprofit and second only to the U.S. government. In addition to research, Komen and its nationwide network of Affiliates serve women and men in thousands of communities. To date, more than $2.1 billion has been invested in community programs that provide education, screening and treatment support.

Texas also has 18 ongoing grants, awarded in previous years including grants to Komen Scholars Abenaa Brewster, M.D., MPH, Sharon Giordano, M.D., MPH, and Gordon Mills, M.D., Ph.D.

About Susan G. Komen®
Susan G. Komen is the world’s largest breast cancer organization outside of the federal government, funding more breast cancer research than any other nonprofit while providing real-time help to those facing the disease. Since its founding in 1982, Komen has funded more than $956 million in research and provided more than $2.1 billion in funding to screening, education, treatment and psychosocial support programs. Komen has worked in more than 60 countries worldwide. Komen was founded by Nancy G. Brinker, who promised her sister, Susan G. Komen, that she would end the disease that claimed Suzy’s life. Visit or call 1-877 GO KOMEN. Connect with us on social at

Grants are contingent upon signed and executed contracts with Komen.