STOPPING CANCER RECURRENCE

April Kloxin (standing) and doctoral student Lisa Sawicki study samples in UD’s Colburn Lab.

April Kloxin (standing) and doctoral student Lisa Sawicki study samples in UD’s Colburn Lab.

Susan G. Komen Grant to Support Research on Breast Cancer Recurrence

Although early detection and better treatments have resulted in more women with breast cancer surviving past the five-year mark, 20 percent of disease-free patients will experience a recurrence anywhere from five to 25 years later at a metastatic site — most often in the bone marrow or the lungs. And their chances of surviving this secondary cancer are lower because it is often quite advanced before it is detected. “There’s a significant clinical need to understand the mechanism of late cancer recurrence to determine disease markers and improve treatment strategies,” says the University of Delaware’s April Kloxin. “It has been hypothesized that late recurrences originate from tumor cells that disseminate to these other tissues in the body where they become dormant and are later re-activated.” Kloxin recently received a $450,000 grant from Susan G. Komen aimed at developing a better understanding of this dormancy and reactivation process so that ultimately recurrence can be prevented. “While estrogen receptor positive tumors typically have better initial outcomes, late recurrences are a concern,” she says. “If we can understand the mechanisms that drive the switch from dormancy to growth of this type of cancer, we can identify predictive biomarkers that may indicate which women are at risk and lay the foundation for the development of more effective treatment.” Kloxin’s team plans first to create materials that mimic various metastatic sites and then identify key signaling pathways in cancer dormancy within these 3-D microenvironments. Second, they will focus on determining what regulates re-activation of the cancer cells within this cultured system. Finally, they will establish commonalities of dormancy or activation of patient-derived tumor cells in the culture model. “This last goal is where we’re really excited about our collaboration with the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center and Research Institute in the Christiana Care Health System,” Kloxin says. “Evaluating cells from actual patients will provide us with the heterogeneity of real cases and enable us to compare our findings with the traditional markers observed by clinicians.” Read more…