UACC scientist wins BTE grant for breast cancer research

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Pavani Chalasani, MD, MPH, will receive a $20,000 research grant from the University of Arizona Cancer Center’s Better Than Ever (BTE) program to study novel biomarkers that might predict therapeutic response for breast cancer patients.

BTE is in its 15th year of helping people make walking, running or cycling a regular part of life, and the 14th year of awarding grants. The fundraising efforts of BTE participants and their supporters have resulted in more than $1.8 million in 50 research grants to UACC researchers.  Grants are awarded through a competitive process managed by a scientific review committee led by Setsuko K. Chambers, MD.

Dr. Chalasani’s study is titled: Correlation of PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway activation with response to neoadjuvant endocrine therapy in POWER-PIINC trial.

“PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway activation has been associated with resistance to endocrine therapy (or anti-estrogen therapy),” Dr. Chalasani says. “Recently, drugs targeting this pathway have been approved in treatment of metastatic breast cancer. However, there are no known markers which predict which tumors respond to such and which don’t. This project proposes to study such markers (known as biomarkers) and gather pilot data if they can predict response. We will be studying these markers on tissue collected in POWER-PIINC trial.

“Resistance to endocrine therapy is of a major research interest, and if these results support use of these biomarkers, they can be further studied in larger prospective clinical trials. This work will serve as foundation to propose prospective neoadjuvant clinical trials where the therapy will be determined based on their expression. PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway activation is reported in other cancer types like prostate cancer, renal cell carcinoma, neuroendocrine cancers, ovarian cancer and these results can be easily translated and applicable to them."

In 31 cases, the pilot research conducted through BTE grants have allowed researchers to gain the data necessary to seek major awards from national agencies and organizations such as the National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society and others. The BTE-funded research over the years has resulted in 63 publications in academic journals, 42 presentations at scientific conferences and 32 other programs and poster presentations.

Over the years, Better Than Ever has trained some 4,000 women and men in a non-competitive atmosphere at all fitness levels to include regular activity for health benefits. In 2014-15, more than 100 participants are training for and participating in local races and other fitness events in Tucson, Phoenix, Green Valley and Sedona. Some BTE participants have participated in fitness events in California and Massachusetts.

BTE is a free program, and participants are asked to meet a modest fundraising goal, with donations supporting the research grant program.

- Jan. 22, 2015