Gift Supports Breast Cancer Research at Sylvester

The Karen Mullen Breast Cancer Foundation has awarded $35,000 to Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center to support the groundbreaking work of Stefan Glück, M.D., Ph.D., Sylvester Professor of Medicine. The grant specifically supports Glück’s research into estrogen receptors in breast cancer.

Certain breast cancer patients benefit from anti-estrogen treatments. However, those with triple negative disease present a complex case: their estrogen receptors are either missing or, as Glück collaborator Zafar Nawaz, Ph.D., previously demonstrated, are degraded faster in breast cells by what is called a ubiquitin system. Ubiquitin systems, which destroy proteins in cells, were discovered in 2004 by Aaron Ciechanover, M.D., D.Sc., who subsequently won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his finding.

The aim of the research is to slow down or block the estrogen receptor degradation. If this can be done, Glück and Nawaz theorize that a compound known as a proteasome inhibitor could stabilize the estrogen receptors. This would allow treatment of these patients with Tamoxifen, an effective anti-estrogen therapy that is currently used only in patients who have a functional estrogen receptor in their cancer cells. “The hope is that the two therapies together can produce results,” Glück says.

A member of Sylvester, Nawaz, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, studies basic steroid receptors.

A medical oncologist, Glück’s interest focuses on clinical trials in breast cancer; he is Principal Investigator of 29 clinical studies in breast cancer and serves as an investigator in numerous other scientific translational projects. A member of various professional organizations, Glück has authored or co-authored more than 200 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and journal abstracts, and has presented more than 350 papers at national and international meetings. From 2003–2008, he was the Clinical Director of the Braman Family Breast Cancer Institute at Sylvester. Glück was presented with the America’s Top Oncologists 2008 award from Consumers’ Research Council of America and has received the Best Doctors in America honor every year since 2006.

Based in Seattle, the Karen Mullen Breast Cancer Foundation was founded in honor of Mullen, who was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in its early stages at age 44, and passed away after four years of fighting the aggressive disease. Their gift to Glück is part of Momentum2: The Breakthrough Campaign for the University of Miami.

The foundation’s signature fundraising event is “Slice of Hope,” a dine-out event that encourages pizzerias across the country to donate a percentage of their sales from one night in October to the foundation, which uses 100 percent of the proceeds to fund the most promising breast cancer studies taking place in the most successful research labs. In 2012, the event brought in more than $100,000 and is close to meeting the goal of raising $140,000, double what they raised in their inaugural year.

The foundation’s mission is to reduce the number of breast cancer deaths annually by funding vital research and education in the focus areas of triple negative disease and quality end-of-life care. Its ultimate goal is to achieve a complete cure for breast cancer through aggressively identifying and supporting the most promising research programs in the United States.

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