Susan G. Komen Awards Grant to Sylvester Breast Cancer Researcher

Barry I. Hudson, Ph.D., breast cancer researcher at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and assistant professor in the Department of Cell Biology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, has received a three-year Career Catalyst Award of $450,000 from Susan G. Komen, the world’s largest nonprofit funder of breast cancer research. The award is one of only two in the state of Florida to receive new research funding from Komen National Headquarters totaling $630,000. These highly competitive awards are intended to promote the development of scientists in the field of breast cancer research at the early stages of their careers.

The relative of a breast cancer survivor, Hudson said the prospect of improving the treatment of breast cancer is satisfying on a personal level. “I’m extremely grateful to Susan G. Komen for this highly prestigious award,” he said. “I hope our collaborative work will ultimately make a significant difference in the lives of breast cancer patients and help us develop more targeted therapies.”

The grant will help support research into the role of the protein RAGE (Receptor for Advanced Glycation End-products), a signaling pathway in tumor formation and metastasis. The project will also investigate whether blocking RAGE signaling may be an effective therapeutic target for breast cancer.

“RAGE is present on the surface of normal cells that get ‘switched on’ by many of the inflammatory proteins produced in cancer,” said Hudson, who is also Co-Director of the Master’s of Science in Clinical and Translational Investigation Program. “We’re trying to elucidate how RAGE makes different cell types communicate and if its influence is on cancerous or non-cancerous cells. We are especially interested in how RAGE activates breast cancer cells and how it makes cancer worse by also recruiting normal inflammatory cells from the blood.”

Hudson and his collaborators will perform analysis of RAGE protein levels in a large sample bank of patient tissue samples to test if RAGE levels predict invasiveness and metastasis and could therefore be used as a clinical tool.

“The potential clinical application of our work is the rapid advancement to clinical trials of our RAGE inhibitor in patients with invasive and metastatic breast cancer,” Hudson said. “The results of this study may greatly impact clinical practice and treatment of breast cancer.”

“This is phenomenal news for our community,” said Cathy L. McCarthy, Executive Director of Komen Miami/Ft. Lauderdale. “Sylvester has some of the top breast cancer researchers in the country, and this grant will help advance their groundbreaking work.”

Hudson, in collaboration with Marc Lippman, M.D., Deputy Director at Sylvester, and Joyce Slingerland, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Braman Family Breast Cancer Institute at Sylvester and Associate Director for Translational Research, received the American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grant (2012) and the Sylvester Braman Family Breast Cancer Institute’s Developmental Grant (2013), which gave the researchers the critical resources needed to generate the preliminary data necessary for the Susan G. Komen award.

In addition to the critical research support, this award also provides research career development under the guidance of a mentor committee. For this award, the mentor committee consists of Lippman, Slingerland and Kerry Burnstein, Ph.D., a member of Sylvester and Professor of Molecular & Cellular Pharmacology.

“As lead mentor, Dr. Lippman’s immense expertise as a scientist and clinician cannot be overstated,” Hudson said. “Dr. Lippman has a strong history of training leaders in the field of breast cancer research, and his former trainees occupy illustrious positions, including directors of comprehensive cancer centers, programs and oncology divisions, as well as professors in academic institutions. Both Dr. Slingerland and Dr. Burnstein have outstanding track records as researchers, mentors and clinicians.”

The team has also enlisted the support of Jane Torres, founder and president of the Florida Breast Cancer Foundation. As a breast cancer advocate, Torres will add an important element to their endeavor, helping the team understand the impact of their work on the breast cancer patient community, and facilitating their connection and communication with breast cancer patients, families and advocates in the diverse South Florida community.

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