Cellular, molecular and genetic research over the past decade has aimed to unlock the mystery of breast cancer. Researchers gain momentum by building on their most promising discoveries and need a steady stream of dollars to sustain their ongoing programs of study. In today's competitive environment, institutions with the largest discretionary funds are the most successful in attracting the finest candidates. With vital funding from primary sources such as the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense and the American Cancer Society shrinking and rivalry for these dollars expanding, this type of funding has been destabilized.
In looking to future research initiatives, partnerships that involve sharing financial as well as substantive goals will play an increasingly important role. In order to recruit and retain the most talented scientists in breast cancer research, the Lynn Sage Foundation and the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University have forged a philanthropic partnership.
The recruitment of talented new faculty is an enduring priority for every dynamic research enterprise. To generate vitality, The Cancer Center recruits both faculty on the threshold of their careers needing essential startup funds, as well as established investigators who require funds to expand their existing programs.
Crucial to success in this highly competitive environment is the ability to retain talented researchers. Investigators' long-term gains depend upon a line of research continuing without interruption. This requires the Cancer Center to supply its investigators with a vigorous and stable flow of funds.
The Foundation funds a core scholarship. Awards, determined by The Cancer Center leadership, offer the chosen candidate $100,000 per year for a maximum of two years. Our recipients directly propose how to best utilize their funding dollars and undergo review at the end of their first year as a Lynn Sage Scholar.
Dr. Jain's research focuses on immunotherapy as a complimentary approach for eliminating breast cancer. Successes of many treatments used in breast cancer, including chemotherapy and targeted drugs, are ultimately limited by resistance or side effects. Our work focuses on harnessing the body's own immune system to overcome these barriers. This novel approach entails a bacterial vaccine injected into a metastatic tumor, which causes massive tumor destruction and generates an immune response to specifically target and eliminate disseminated tumors throughout the body. The vaccine has shown impressive activity in animals and is currently being studied in cancer patients. She will be testing this treatment in women with metastatic breast cancer as well as collaborating with her basic science colleagues to further understand and improve upon this technology in the lab.
Dr. Jain received her medical degree at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. She completed her Internship and Residency in Internal Medicine at The University of Michigan, and a Fellowship in Hematology/Oncology at Weill Cornell Medical College, New York Presbyterian Hospital. Dr. Jain is currently an Assistant Professor of Medicine and is working towards a Master of Science in Clinical Investigation at Northwestern University.
Dr. Cheng received her medical degree from Peking University, Beijing, China and her PhD in Biochemistry with Dr. Stewart Shuman at Sloan-Kettering Institute, New York. Dr. Cheng then moved to Boston and did her postdoctoral training with Noble Laureate Phillip Sharp at the Center for Cancer Research, MIT. In August of 2007, Dr. Cheng joined the faculty at the Northwestern University of Hematology/Oncology as an Assistant Professor.
Research in Dr. Cheng's lab focuses on investigating the biological components and pathways that control tumor metastasis and recurrence, which represent the two major obstacles in the successful treatment of cancer.
For carcinoma cells to break away from neighboring cells and invade to distal organs, they must lose cell-cell contact and become motile and invasive. These changes in cancer cell properties are governed by a process named epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT).
Currently, the Cheng lab is investigating, at the molecular level, a critical role of several gene products in promoting EMT and breast cancer progression. They hope that their studies on dissecting the mechanisms of EMT and tumor progression may offer new strategies to predict disease prognosis and lead to identification of the therapeutic agents in inhibit EMT, thereby halting tumor progression.
After peaking in 2004, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget has declined every year in real terms, with only a 1.4% increase from 2009 to the present. Such limits have made it increasingly challenging for talented medical researchers to secure funding for their investigations.
In this environment, it is even more impressive that Dr. Jacqueline S. Jeruss, MD, PhD, while as an assistant professor of surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, was awarded an NIH K22 Career Transition Award in 2010.
Not only a testament to her research expertise and resourcefulness, Dr. Jeruss also credits the funding she received from the Lynn Sage Foundation for preparing her to earn this grant. The grant is valued at over $520,000 over three years.
Named the inaugural Lynn Sage Scholar in 2007, Dr. Jeruss benefited from the Foundation's program, "conceived as a means to respond to high priority recruitment and retention needs" at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. Thanks to the "seed funding" provided by the Lynn Sage Foundation to Dr. Jeruss early in her career, she was an ideal candidate for this NIH funding.
The NIH Career Transition Awards are granted to outstanding basic or clinical investigators to develop their independent research skills through a two phase program. The award is intended to facilitate the establishment of a record of independent research by the investigator in order to sustain and promote a successful research career. Dr. Jeruss' NIH grant is being used to investigate "The Oncogenic Significance of Cyclin Overexpression and Smad3 Tumor Suppression." The long-term goal of her investigation is to determine how changes in Smad 3 signal transduction affect breast cancer progression to help establish a molecular staging of the disease and to facilitate the discovery of new treatment options.
Dr. Virginia Kaklamani has been working to identifying patients at high risk for breast, ovarian and colon cancers based on their genetic background. Dr. Kaklamani has been looking at novel genes and individual risk based on changes in these genes and has been working on several genes and their relation to cancer risk, most notably TGF-beta and adiponectin. One change in TGF-beta has been shown to be associated with increased colon and breast cancer risk in individuals who carry it. Also adiponectin, which is also related to obesity and diabetes, has also been found to change breast and colon cancer risk. The result of this research will help identify correctly high risk patients and offer these individuals better preventative measures (such as oophorectomy) or better screening strategies such as colonoscopies, MRIs of breast and more frequent mammograms.
Dr. Kaklamani is also working on identifying risk factors for weight gain in women who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer. It has been shown that women with breast cancer gain weight and this weight gain increases the chance of recurrence of their cancer. Dr Kaklamani has initiated a study to evaluate breast cancer related weight gain, looking at genes that may be responsible for the weight gain as well as treatment related effects.
"The Lynn Sage Foundation has given me the support to examine the role of obesity and obesity related genes in breast cancer," says Dr. Kaklamani, "This will help our breast cancer patients live longer and better lives."
A pledge of $200,000 over two years fully supports a Lynn Sage Scholarship, awarded to a promising researcher in the donor's name.
Scholars adopt the prestigious name of the donor and carry it with pride for two years, while donors become a valuable part of the research community.
If you would like to fully support a Lynn Sage Scholar, please call Laura Sage at 312.488.1457 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every dollar contributed to the Lynn Sage Foundation fortifies the efforts of Robert H. Lurie Cancer Center scientists targeted as Lynn Sage Scholars. The Foundation welcomes contributions of any amount. Your dollars can help attract a promising young researcher just starting a career or fortify the continuity of a line of research for an established investigator. Make your donation now!