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Komen Grant Funds Breast Cancer Research and Training

Researchers Seronda Robinson, Kevin P. Williams and Jodie Fleming received a grant for training and research into breast cancer disparities.

The Susan G. Komen Foundation has awarded $405,000 to North Carolina Central University (NCCU) to establish a graduate training and public health initiative focused on breast cancer disparities.

NCCU professors Kevin P. Williams, Ph.D., Jodie Fleming Ph.D., Xioahe Yang, Ph.D., and Seronda Robinson, Ph.D., will collaborate to train graduate students in breast cancer research, as well as to develop and implement community-based strategies to address the disease’s disproportionate impact on African-American women.

The NCCU Graduate Training in Disparities Research (GTDR) grant was announced Sept. 19. It takes a cross-disciplinary approach to addressing breast cancer, with students from under-represented groups conducting research, as well as participating in hands-on, grassroots engagement.

“In order to develop treatments that reduce breast cancer disparities and eventually cure aggressive breast cancers, we desperately need to increase our understanding of how biology and genetics impact aggressive breast cancers in young African-American women,” said Williams, an associate professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and a faculty member at NCCU’s Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise (BRITE).

“Perhaps no group of individuals is more strategic in our fight against aggressive breast cancers than talented, well-trained and passionate researchers from those populations affected by disparities in breast cancer outcomes.”

Williams is primary investigator (PI) for GTDR program. Fleming, Ph.D, an assistant professor of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, will serve as co-PI, and Xioahe Yang Ph.D, associate professor of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, as lead mentor.

Seronda Robinson, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of NCCU’s Public Health Education Department, and Nadine Barrett, Ph.D., director of the Health Equity and Disparities office at Duke Cancer Institute, will lead the public health and community engagement component of the program.

The funding is part of a $2.9 million overall grant package Komen awarded to NCCU and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for breast cancer initiatives.

“For nearly 35 years our organization has been a leader in the fight to end breast cancer, changing how people think about, talk about and treat this disease,” said Komen President and CEO Judy Salerno, M.D., M.S. “Not only will these grants accelerate our understanding of key areas in breast cancer research, but they include funding for early-career investigators.”

Williams’ research focuses on inflammatory breast cancer, an aggressive form of the disease in which cancer cells block lymph vessels and cause the breast to become red and swollen. It more often affects African-American than Caucasian women and is frequently diagnosed at an early age

Because the type of cancer involved is hormone receptor negative, patients cannot be treated with hormone therapies commonly used in other types of breast cancer. Fleming’s lab explores the mechanisms at cancerous lesions that induce metastatic triple negative breast cancer most commonly found among premenopausal African Americans.


Published: Tuesday, September 20, 2016
by Senior Writer and Editor, Renee Elder
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