Set in Stone

Memorial Sloan Kettering honors TBBCF’s contribution to cancer research

By MELISSA JOHNSON

Breast cancer is an expensive disease. Fighting it requires time, money, and perseverance. The Terri Brodeur Breast Cancer Foundation’s driving force, from the moment Norma Logan founded the organization in 2006, has always been to find a cure. TBBCF has applied 100% of every donation toward that goal.

TBBCF on the MSK 2020 Wall of Benefactors (Line 6)
TBBCF on the MSK’s 2020 Wall of Benefactors (Line 6)

The foundation goes right to the source, awarding contributions from supporters and funds raised through its annual Walk for a Cure directly to cancer researchers. One institution has recognized TBBCF for that.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) in Manhattan has added TBBCF to its 2020 Wall of Benefactors, an honor reserved for a person or group who has given at least $1 million. In fact, more than one in four of the 55 grants TBBCF has awarded between 2007 and 2022 have gone to MSK researchers.

MSK’s Chief Development Officer Kenneth Manotti says, “Since receiving our first grant from the Terri Brodeur Breast Cancer Foundation in 2007, my colleagues and I have valued the foundation’s rigorous, impactful, transparent, and smart approach to grantmaking. We are privileged to partner with TBBCF to facilitate support for early-career researchers—a powerful strategy toward a better future for people with breast cancer.”

MSK grant recipients between 2019 and 2022 who are helping to bring about that better future include Drs. Jing Hu, Jan Remsik, Rachna Malani and Emanuela Ferraro. All four are studying different types of metastatic breast cancer, or cancer that has made its way to distant organs. Currently, almost 75% of patients with Stage IV die within five years of diagnosis, so their research is desperately needed.

Dr. Jing Hu
Dr. Jing Hu

Dr. Jing Hu is studying treatment ideas for metastatic breast cancer. After what seems like successful eradication of early-stage disease through surgery, chemo and radiation, sometimes it shows up later elsewhere in the body. That suggests metastatic cells were lurking for months or years without being caught by scans, tests or the body’s immune system. Hu hopes to shine a light on immune responses in the metastatic microenvironment and develop ways to suppress metastasis.

Dr. Jan Remsik
Dr. Jan Remsik

Dr. Jan Remsik is researching why some breast cancers lead to leptomeningeal metastasis, or the spread of tumor cells into the cerebrospinal fluid. He is also evaluating how therapy contributes to the dormancy and re-emergence of these cells and which genes are involved in instances of deadly recurrence.

Dr. Rachna Malani
Dr. Rachna Malani

Dr. Rachna Malani is studying breast cancer that spreads to the brain. Breast cancer is the second most common cancer to spread to the central nervous system (CNS), and when it does, it mostly isn’t discovered until symptoms appear. She plans to create a new approach to screening for disease in the brain and learn why it forms.

Dr. Emanuela Ferraro
Dr. Emanuela Ferraro

TBBCF’s 2022 MSK grant recipient, Dr. Emanuela Ferraro, is also studying breast cancer that spreads to the brain. Because of the blood-brain barrier, most chemotherapy can’t reach gray matter. But a new medicine called tucatinib has been approved for patients with HER2-positive breast cancer, and it is the first treatment to show a significant survival benefit in patients with brain metastasis. Ferraro will study the positive response to this medicine in the brain along with mechanisms of resistance to treatment that are still unknown.

It’s been more than five years since TBBCF’s last visit to MSK, partly due to the pandemic. But foundation board members plan to meet these latest grant recipients later this year and shake the hands of those who give hope to cancer patients and their loved ones.

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