Scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, University of Texas, and University of Pennsylvania have received a four-year, $3.75 million Team Science Grant from the Gray Foundation to study the cascade of changes that occurs within cells when a key mechanism for repairing damaged DNA breaks down. The grant, announced following a national competition, is one of the first to be awarded by the Gray Foundation’s Basser Initiative, which fosters research in cancers linked to mutations or malfunctions in the BRCA gene pathways.
The BRCA genes work in concert with other genes to edit out and correct spelling errors in the DNA code. In people who inherit or develop mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2, the genes no longer perform this function as well, resulting in an accumulation of DNA damage that can cause normal cells to turn cancerous. Men and women who carry mutated forms of these genes have a significantly elevated risk of developing breast, ovarian, pancreatic, and/or prostate cancers.
The mission of the Basser Initiative Team Science Grant Program is to fund highly meritorious research projects that bring together the best minds in cancer research to develop new therapies, prevention approaches, and better understanding of the fundamental mechanisms at work in BRCA-related cancers. Funded projects are multidisciplinary and, preferably, multi-institutional.
The leaders of the newly-funded project, titled “Dissection of BRCA-mediated Tumor Suppression Pathways,” are: Alan D’Andrea, MD, and Dipanjan Chowdhury, PhD, of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Dana-Farber; Panos Konstantinopoulos, MD, PhD, of the Department of Medical Oncology at Dana-Farber; Patrick Sung, PhD, of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio; and Roger Greenberg, MD, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania Epigenetics Institute.
“Our Team Science Project will provide valuable information about how inactivation of BRCA1 or BRCA2, the activation of BRCA-independent DNA repair, and the acquisition of secondary mutations in regulators of BRCA-dependent DNA repair leads to cancer,” says Chowdhury. “The work will help women who have inherited a BRCA mutation from their parents or whose BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene has been altered because of DNA damage. The knowledge garnered from our endeavors will endow medical practitioners with the wherewithal to counsel women regarding cancer risk, to predict the durability of drug efficacy, and to explain how drug resistance arises. Importantly, the results from our Project will provide the foundation for the development of improved cancer treatment regimens.”
The Gray Foundation has two missions: to accelerate research, improve treatment, and raise awareness for individuals have inherited BRCA mutations; and to maximize access to education, healthcare, and opportunity for low-income youth in New York City.