Breast Matters - Philanthropy
Issue No. 4
Support is funding our breast cancer research and advancing patient care. Here are some of the many generous gifts directed toward breast cancer research at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center.
Safeway Continues to Fund Innovative Breast Cancer Research
Breast Cancer Vaccine
The potential to engage the immune system is considered one of the most promising areas of cancer research. Clinician-scientist and cancer immunology expert Leisha Emens, M.D., Ph.D., has been on the forefront of these discoveries, pioneering some of the first therapeutic cancer vaccines and leading the way to identify new immune targets to improve their effectiveness.
Inhibiting Breast Cancer-Promoting Gene Pathways
Cancer pathology expert Edward Gabrielson, M.D., is exploring the critical gene pathway Wnt and the benefits of using drugs that inhibit it as a way to improve breast cancer treatment.
Identifying Genetic Targets to Improve Breast Cancer Treatment
Josh Lauring, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues are building upon the pioneering cancer genetics research completed at the Kimmel Cancer Center that revealed the unique genetic blueprint of breast cancer by studying recurrent genetic alterations in cancer cells, including mutations and large-scale chromosomal changes. This important research is helping to determine if these mutant genes contribute to sensitivity or resistance to widely used hormonal therapies, such as tamoxifen.
Using Gene-Based Tests to Guide Treatment
Safeway investigator Luigi Marchionni, Ph.D., and colleagues are devising a simpler, more accurate system for breast cancer risk stratification. The test could help physicians predict, with better accuracy than existing methods, the likelihood of cancer recurrence in women with early breast cancer.
Reprogramming Resistant Breast Cancer Cells
Safeway investigator Linda Resar, M.D., identified a gene that, when repressed in tumor cells, puts a halt to cell growth and a range of processes needed for tumors to enlarge and spread to distant sites. She hopes that this so-called “master regulator” gene may be the key to developing a new treatment for tumors resistant to current drugs, including triple-negative breast cancer.
Targeted Therapies That Break Treatment Resistance
Many postmenopausal women with early-stage breast cancers who initially respond well to tamoxifen become resistant to the drug over time and develop recurrent tumors. Safeway investigator and Kimmel Cancer Center Breast Cancer Program co-director Sara Sukumar, Ph.D., found that a gene called HOXB7 might be the culprit in tamoxifen resistance. Studies are underway to target HOXB7.
A Breast Cancer Specimen Bank
Safeway funding allowed Antonio Wolff, M.D., and colleagues to establish the Johns Hopkins Breast Cancer Longitudinal Repository. The repository contains well-annotated blood and tissue specimens that will be used to generate data for large grants, and also for future investigations of a variety of breast cancer-related questions.
Gift from Henri and Rhoda Bertuch Funds Research on Triple-Negative Metastatic Breast Cancer
With generous support from Henri and Rhoda Bertuch, experts in the Johns Hopkins Breast Cancer Program have created a one-of-a kind program for women with metastatic triple-negative breast cancer, the most deadly form of the disease. Gifting $300,000 to support the Cindy Rosencrans Triple-Negative Metastatic Breast Cancer Research Fund provides critical funds for laboratory discoveries intended to improve treatment options for women with metastatic breast cancer. Funds are being used to obtain tumor tissue from women with metastatic triple-negative breast cancer for a comprehensive genetic analysis. An expert panel convenes and recommends a personalized treatment approach for each woman. Among the latest research to be funded is that of Gregg Semenza, M.D., Ph.D. He and his colleagues are leading laboratory studies that will be used to the design clinical trials in which the drug digoxin will be added to chemotherapy in women with tumors that express specific genes. So far, the data suggest that the combination can eliminate tumors without added side effects. Andrew Ewald, Ph.D., is seeking to identify the molecular requirements for cancer cells to invade and ultimately destroy normal tissue. His team has developed new three-dimensional (3-D) culture studies to enable us to identify the most invasive cells in primary breast tumors. Funds will be used to collect samples from women with triple-negative breast tumors for direct testing of multiple known and new drugs in this innovative 3-D system. 
Making an Impact
A generous $250,000 gift from Jed and Allison Hart in memory of his mother, Ellen Hart, will help further promote personalized medicine research initiatives. Funds will be used to generate genetic profiles of tumors from women with breast tumors that contain the estrogen or progesterone receptors but that no longer respond to hormonal therapy. An expert panel will meet and recommend a personalized treatment approach for each woman.
The John Fetting Fund for Breast Cancer Prevention
Thank you to our generous donors. In this issue, we highlight:
- Kimmel Cancer Center Advisory Board member and long-time supporter Nancy Cohen, owner of Eddie’s of Roland Park, made a $50,000 gift.
Numerous donors made memorial gifts for Mary Corey, Baltimore Sun editor and the first woman to lead the Baltimore Sun newsroom.
- For a second year, the girls’ tennis program at the McDonogh School, under the leadership of coach Laddie Levy, continues to raise breast cancer awareness and support. This year, they expanded the event, including all of the tennis teams in the leagues in which McDonogh girls compete. This event provides an important opportunity to teach girls and young women about breast cancer prevention and to engage them as active participants in improving women’s health.