BCM Family
for Faculty, Staff and Trainees
Volume 7, Issue 8
August 2010

Breast cancer researcher receives grant to combat major clinical problem

Dr. Suzanne Fuqua
Dr. Suzanne Fuqua

As many as three-fourths of breast cancer patients need hormone therapy but the majority eventually become resistant to this type of treatment. A recent grant to a Baylor College of Medicine researcher will help fund research focused on this major clinical problem.

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

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.

Overexpression causes tumors to become resistant

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

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 her team of researchers hypothesize that if Dicer is blocked, the tumor may no longer be sensitive to this treatment.

Logo of Susan G. Komen for the CureRestore effectiveness

"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®, a philanthropic breast cancer organization, 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.