Breast cancer is one of the most common forms cancer, with about 230,000 new cases in women and 2,300 new cases in men diagnosed each year. Many researchers around the world are dedicated to studying breast cancer, to find new treatment methods and gain better understandings of how this cancer is caused, how it grows, and how it can be stopped. Research ranges from trying to starve breast cancer tumors to studying how specific proteins are involved with the cancer.
Researcher Xiaoting Zhang, PhD. from the University of Cincinnati recently received $1.8 million in funding over 5 years from the National Cancer Institute to continue his study of how the protein MED1 is involved with breast cancer.
"The role and underlying molecular functions of MED1 in HER2-driven breast cancer development and spread is poorly understood," explained Xiaoting Zhang, leader of this research project. "Our long-term goal is to understand the role of regulating proteins, particularly MED1 and HER2, in breast cancer and to test the efficacy of targeting them with the ultimate goal of providing new insights and potential therapeutic targets for better treatment of the disease,”
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The University of Cincinnati researcher and his team are focusing on how this MED1 protein is involved with a specific type of breast cancer, HER2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2)-positive breast cancer. Through their research, the Cincinnati team has learned that MED1 is a protein that can activate the estrogen receptor in cells, which contributes to the growth of breast cancer.
MED1 is a protein commonly located near HER2 and is frequently produced in exceedingly high quantities in breast cancer cells, yet when MED1 is eliminated, these cancer cells have been seen to stop growing.
"More discoveries about the relationship between MED1 and HER2 in breast cancers are necessary because the majority of estrogen receptor and HER2 positive breast cancer patients develop resistance to anti-estrogen and anti-HER2 therapies in a rather short period of time after their initial treatments," explained Zhang, an associate professor in the University of Cincinnati Department of Cancer Biology. "We hope this study provides new insight into simultaneously blocking the HER2 and estrogen receptor cellular pathway for the treatment of this type of breast cancer.”
Through further research into MED1 and HER2-positive breast cancer, the Cincinnati team hope to see if MED1 has the potential to be a therapeutic target to help treat this form of breast cancer.
(Image courtesy of Bearcat2011via Wikimedia Commons)
This $1.8 million research grant is part of more than $84 million in current funding the university is receiving from the National Institutes of Health and related organizations. The University of Cincinnati is a top-ranked institution in terms of both funding received and research produced. In the 2013 fiscal year, the university ranked 35th in the nation in total R&D expenditures, exceeding $356 million.
Other research projects at the University of Cincinnati currently receiving NIH funding include:
- The Food and Drug Administration awarded $2.6 million for pharmacokinetic studies of Tacrolimus in transplant patients.
- The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke awarded the NSTN National Clinical Coordinating Center $2.3 million for the development and testing of new therapies for stroke treatment, recovery/rehabilitation, and prevention that can decrease the global burden of stroke.
- A research team at the University of Cincinnati is developing a topical sunscreen cream that takes UV protection to the next level and requires fewer applications than traditional sunscreen thanks to a $1 million grant from the National Cancer Institute.
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