Department of Defense grant focuses on developing a new treatment model for breast cancer

Phoenix, AZ, September 14, 2006--The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) has been awarded a primary role in a $10.7 million grant awarded to Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. TGen was chosen to accelerate a major objective in the grant awarded by the Department of Defense (DoD) Breast Cancer Research Program. In collaboration with principal investigators at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, the grant is focused on developing a new treatment model for breast cancer to reverse resistance to anti-estrogen therapy.
Dr. Heather Cunliffe, head of TGen's Breast and Ovarian Cancer Research Unit, will collaborate with world-renown breast cancer expert, Dr. V. Craig Jordan, Vice President and Scientific Director of Medical Science at Fox Chase. Jordan is known for his seminal work that led to the validation of tamoxifen as the first-ever drug to prevent breast cancer. Used for breast cancer treatment since the 1970s, tamoxifen is also the most widely used drug to treat the disease.

Although considerable advances in the treatment of breast cancer have been made during the past 30 years, a significant proportion of patients who receive anti-estrogen therapies will eventually become resistant to this type of treatment.

"This grant is a first step in trying to figure out why breast tumors become resistant to anti-hormone therapy," said Dr. Heather Cunliffe, head of TGen's Breast and Ovarian Cancer Research Unit. "Genomic technology, which can measure the behavior of tumors at a very high resolution, will allow us to develop tests to predict ahead of time whether a patient will fail anti-hormone therapy or is likely to acquire resistance to this type of therapy. For a woman who unfortunately progresses and develops recurrent drug-resistant breast cancer, we are optimistic our discoveries will identify ways to reactivate therapeutic sensitivity."

The research conducted under the five-year DoD grant is supported by preliminary findings that suggest there may indeed be a way to re-trigger breast tumor cells to become responsive to therapy. The ultimate goal of the study is to leverage the knowledge of measurable similarities shared by drug-resistant breast cancers and translate that knowledge into more accurate prognostic tests and patient-tailored treatments.

TGen will collaborate with Fox Chase and Georgetown University in Washington, DC, to precisely map the genetic and biological events associated with breast tumor cells that may or may not be sensitive to anti-estrogen drugs. The results will be analyzed to identify patterns consistent with resistance to various anti-hormone therapies. A team at Johns Hopkins University will then conduct phase I and II clinical studies to evaluate these consistent patterns prospectively.

"Metastatic breast cancer remains a devastating disease, and TGen's focus on hormone resistance is a key place to focus our efforts. Dr. Cunliffe's opportunity to collaborate with Dr. Jordan and colleagues, could change the way we look at and treat breast cancer," said TGen President and Scientific Director, Dr. Jeffrey Trent.

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About TGen
The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization focused on developing earlier diagnostics and smarter treatments. Translational genomics research is a relatively new field employing innovative advances arising from the Human Genome Project and applying them to the development of diagnostics, prognostics and therapies for cancer, neurological disorders, diabetes and other complex diseases. TGen's research is based on personalized medicine. The institute plans to accomplish its goals through robust and disease-focused research.

About Fox Chase
Fox Chase Cancer Center was founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as the nation's first cancer hospital. In 1974, Fox Chase became one of the first institutions designated as a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center. Fox Chase conducts basic, clinical, population and translational research; programs of prevention, detection and treatment of cancer; and community outreach. For more information about Fox Chase activities, visit the Center's web site at or call 1-888-FOX CHASE.

Media Contacts:
Amy Erickson, TGen

Karen Mallet, Fox Chase

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