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Priyanka Sharma Awarded Grant by Mary Kay Foundation

November 07, 2019

Priyanka Sharma, MD, breast oncologist at The University of Kansas Cancer Center, was awarded a $100,000 grant from The Mary Kay Foundation to advance research efforts on targeted therapy for metastatic breast cancer.

Despite clinical advances, 40,000 women still die annually from metastatic breast cancer in the United States, highlighting the critical need for better treatment strategies. PI3 kinase (PI3K) is a type of enzyme that transmits signals in cells and helps control cell growth. Changes in PI3K pathways are common in breast cancer cell growth and proliferation, with gain-of-function mutations in up to 40 percent of cases.

In a previous phase I/II study, Dr. Sharma and a team of researchers demonstrated encouraging efficacy of an oral, class I PI3K alpha-specific inhibitor in combination with nab-paclitaxel chemotherapy in patients with HER2-negative metastatic breast cancer. The proposed study funded by The Mary Kay Foundation will build on these findings.

In collaboration with cancer center researchers Steven Soper, PhD, and Andrew Godwin, PhD, Dr. Sharma will evaluate circulating tumor DNA as a liquid-based biomarker of response and acquired drug resistance to a molecular-targeted PI3K inhibitor therapy in metastatic HER2-negative breast cancer patients, utilizing clinical data and pre-existing longitudinal blood plasma samples from a completed clinical trial led by Dr. Sharma. Using technologies developed at the University of Kansas and the University of Kansas Medical Center, the investigators will evaluate a novel microfluidic device to isolate the circulating tumor DNA and next-generation sequencing platforms to evaluate the mutation profile of nearly 300 cancer-related genes.

“Thanks to the support of The Mary Kay Foundation, we can advance our efforts to support the critical development of new effective therapies for metastatic breast cancer,” Dr. Sharma said.

Since 1996, The Mary Kay Foundation has contributed more than $80 million to organizations aligned with its two missions: advancing cancer research and ending domestic violence. After reviewing more than 70 applications, this year The Mary Kay Foundation Research Review Committee awarded $100,000 grants to 11 cancer research institutions across the country, totaling $1.1 million. In addition, the Foundation supports awareness initiatives, community outreach programs and advocates for legislation to ensure women are healthy and safe.

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