Thanks to a $500,000 lead gift by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC), the Susan G. Komen and Blue Cross NC Metastatic Breast Cancer Disparities Collaborative Research Grant was awarded to a research team led by Jennifer Freedman, PhD, and Steven Patierno, PhD, of Duke Cancer Institute, and Katie Hoadley, PhD, Assistant Professor of Genetics and member of UNC Lineberger, who were awarded the grant to investigate how the ancestry of different populations impacts the immune response to metastatic breast cancer.
The study leaders identified biological differences in certain genetic events (called RNA splicing) in tumors between those with African versus European ancestry. The team seeks to determine if these differences cause breast cancer cells to grow and spread more quickly in patients of African descent and contribute to higher metastasis and death rates among Black women. Improved understanding of these underlying molecular mechanisms may lead the way to better treatments and outcomes.
“We know that the health of our state depends on the health of all our communities – and to improve health equity, we must take a closer look at the factors that drive the disparities between Black women and metastatic breast cancer,” said Kia Williams, MD, MSPH, associate medical director at Blue Cross NC. “We are excited to support Komen and researchers at UNC and Duke and eagerly await the invaluable scientific contributions to come from this collaborative effort.”