The Science of Hope
Indianapolis, Indiana (May 29, 2012) — In just four years, the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer Research Laboratories has become a hub for scientific breakthroughs that are changing the face of cancer. Today, this “house that hope built,” located at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center, hosts 22 labs and 36 university-wide researchers working on 85 different projects with one shared goal: to end breast cancer.
This year, nearly 300,000 U.S. women — and 1.4 million women worldwide — will be diagnosed with breast cancer. The disease will take the lives of approximately 40,000 U.S. women — and close to 500,000 women worldwide. The discoveries made by this team of researchers are helping to bring these numbers down to zero.
The latest coming out of the labs, all with a single purpose: better outcomes for patients.
Personalized medicine: Through the study of genomics, researchers have found biomarkers that indicate chemotherapy-induced neuropathy. Further work is looking to additional markers from other treatment side effects to improve the long-term quality of life for breast cancer survivors.
Genomics: studying the genomes of organisms. Understanding a person’s genetics may be important in how we treat that patient and in how the cancer spreads within the body.
Triple-negative treatment: Studies are uncovering biomarkers pointing to potential treatment targets and methods of early detection for this particularly deadly and aggressive (and the least understood) form of the disease.
Triple-negative breast cancer: when breast cancer cells test negative for estrogen receptors (ER-), progesterone receptors (PR-) and HER2 (HER2-) — hormones we can target.
Targeting tumor growth: A novel therapy targeting telomerase is being tested in patients of various breast cancer types. Research in Phase I and II clinical trials are showing that the telomerase inhibitors discovered by the team work well together with the standard drug Herceptin to halt tumor growth.
Telomerase: an enzyme in cancer cells that helps keep them from growing old — think of telomerase like the fountain of youth for breast cancer cells.
Bone health: Drugs commonly used in heart patients to help stop muscle wasting are being studied in the lab to see if the treatment will work in the clinic to help patients maintain strength.
Memory improvement: “Chemo brain” is real and researchers are finding new ways to improve memory and brain function (without taking drugs) in survivors who have had chemotherapy.
High risk factor improvement: A common Type 2 diabetes drug is in Phase I clinical trials to see if it might help change or reduce breast density in overweight or obese women with high risk factors.
Reduction of side effects: Promising experiments with acupuncture to improve sleep and reduce hot flashes in postmenopausal breast cancer survivors are being conducted.
Around the World
The research laboratories are revealing new discoveries that are making waves globally.
Global Health Program
As part of the cancer center’s Global Health Program, members of the Vera Bradley team are helping to provide early detection and appropriate treatment in Kenya. They are also initiating ground-breaking research to learn why certain breast cancers disproportionately affect women of African descent. The team has done similar research in other developing countries like Peru as well.
IU Attracts World Researchers
A world-renowned researcher, Theresa Guise, M.D., came to IU Simon Cancer Center in part to work with the Vera Bradley labs, and brought with her seven other global researchers. Together, they are the only team in the world studying how breast cancer affects bone and muscle in an attempt to identify the mechanisms responsible for muscle wasting and, perhaps, disable it.
New National Drug Study
A national study that targets telomeres, is being led by Kathy D. Miller, M.D. in hopes of making current chemotherapy far more effective in killing breast cancer cells. Research in the Vera Bradley labs directed by Brittney-Shea Herbert, Ph.D., led to the design of a molecule that cripples the telomeres, the enzyme that makes cancer cells ageless.
Komen Tissue Bank
The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Tissue Bank (led by Anna Maria Storliono, M.D., and Susan Clare, M.D., Ph.D., also Foundation labs researchers), is the only normal breast tissue bio-repository of its kind in the world and provides a resource of healthy tissue samples to investigators around the globe.
Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium (TBCRC)
The TBCRC is a collaborative group of 16 research centers across the country that conducts innovative and high-impact clinical trials for breast cancer. IU Simon Cancer Center is a part of this prestigious consortium along with MD Cancer Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and others.
Research in China
David Flockhart, M.D., Ph.D., is collaborating with three universities in China, where breast cancer has increased fourfold over the last 100 years, on personalized medicine research to uncover risk factors and potential targets.
National Accreditation & Recognition
The Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center recently earned its accreditation by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC) by the American College of Surgeons. The NAPBC gives accreditation to those centers committed to providing the highest level of quality breast care and that undergo a rigorous evaluation process and review of their performance. For more information about the NAPBC, visit accreditedbreastcenters.org.
The masterminds behind the life-saving science.
Harikrishna Nakshatri, Ph.D.
George W. Sledge, Jr., M.D.
Sunil Badve, M.D.
Monet W. Bowling, M.D.
Janet Carpenter, Ph.D.
Susan E. Clare, M.D., Ph.D.
David Clemmer, Ph.D.
Anthony B. Firulli, Ph.D.
David A. Flockhart, M.D., Ph.D.
David P. Gilley, Ph.D.
Brenda R. Grimes, Ph.D.
Teresa Guise, M.D.
Linda Han, M.D.
Eyas M. Hattab, M.D.
Chunyan He, Sc.D.
Brittney-Shea Herbert, Ph.D.
Gary D. Hutchins, Ph.D.
Mircea Ivan, M.D., Ph.D.
Philip L. Johnson, Ph.D.
Raymond L. Konger, M.D.
Lang Li, Ph.D.
Samy Meroueh, Ph.D.
Kathy D. Miller, M.D.
Lida A. Mina, M.D.
Kenneth P. Nephew, Ph.D.
Milos V. Novotny, Ph.D.
Julie Otte, Ph.D., R.N.
Milan Radovich, Ph.D.
Andrew J. Saykin, Psy.D.
Bryan P. Schneider, M.D.
Todd C. Skaar, Ph.D.
Roger B. Slee, Ph.D.
Keith Stantz, Ph.D.
Anna Maria Storniolo, M.D.
Hiromi Tanaka, Ph.D.
Tracy C. Vargo-Gogola, Ph.D.
Diana Von Ah, Ph.D., R.N.
Claire E. Walczak, Ph.D.
Clark David Wells, Ph.D.
Jian-Ting Zhang, Ph.D.
Qi-Huang Zheng, Ph.D.
Kim W. Ziner, R.N., Ph.D.