Dr. Suzanne Fuqua, professor of medicine in the Lester and Smith Breast Center at Baylor College of Medicine, has received a grant from Susan G. Komen for the Cure® to further study a protein that may cause breast cancer tumors to become resistant to hormone therapy – an important part of breast cancer treatment.

"About 75 percent of breast cancer patients need hormone therapy, but the majority of those patients will eventually become resistant to this therapy," said Fuqua. "This is a major clinical problem."

Hormone therapy

Hormones are chemical substances produced by the body to regulate functions including immunity, metabolism, growth and reproduction. Certain hormones latch on to breast cancer cells, causing them to proliferate. Hormone therapy works by blocking or removing these hormones.

Tumors that become resistant to hormone therapy will become metastatic, which means they spread to other parts of the body.

Protein overexpressed

In Fuqua's lab, her research team has previously shown that these tumors overexpress a protein called Dicer. "This overexpression causes the tumors to become resistant to hormone therapy."

Fuqua and team hypothesize that if Dicer is blocked, the tumor may no longer be sensitive to this treatment.

"The good news is that there are already inhibitors that have the potential to block this pathway," said Fuqua. "We could potentially restore the effectiveness of this important treatment and prevent the cancer from spreading."

The grant is for $600,000 over three years.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure® has invested $68 million in Texas medical institutions for breast cancer research since 1982. The organization has 13 Texas affiliates, each of which received more than $15.2 million last year for early detection and treatment of breast cancer, breast health education and outreach programs.

Other Texas institutions receiving grants from Susan G. Komen for the Cure ® are the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, University of Texas and The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.