K-State professor receives grant for breast cancer research

02/15/2013 7:28 AM

02/15/2013 7:29 AM

A Kansas State biochemistry professor has received a four-year, $1.25 million grant from the National Cancer Institute — at the National Institutes of Health — to study a promising breast cancer marker called ADAM12.

The university, in a statement, said Anna Zolkiewska’s research on breast cancer stem cells may help improve survival rates by preventing cancer recurrence and metastasis, the major causes of death among breast cancer patients.

Zolkiewska, an associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics, focuses on breast tumor initiating cells, called BTICs, which are known as cancer stem cells. These cells drive breast tumor progression and tumor recurrence or metastasis.

“Our studies strive to produce new research and diagnostic tools for detection of breast tumor initiating cells and to develop new therapies to target these cells," Zolkiewska said.

While current treatments for breast cancer — such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy — can destroy the majority of tumor cells, these treatments cannot eradicate cancer stem cells. Current treatments also have many negative side effects.

“The problem is that cancer stem cells are present in very low amounts,” Zolkiewska said. “They are difficult to detect. But we know that they exist and they are practically resistant to chemotherapy and radiation therapy.”

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