Grants - V Scholar Grants - New Jersey - 2016

Michael Gatza, Ph.D.

Funded by Hooters of America, LLC., in memory of Kelly Jo Dowd

Each breast tumor contains a unique set of genetic mutations that contribute to tumor growth and response to treatment. This means that each patient will respond differently to specific anti-cancer drugs. Triple negative breast cancers are an aggressive and deadly form of breast cancer. Treatments used for this disease often do not work and may have harmful side-effects. As such, there is a need to understand what causes these tumors. This knowledge will allow new therapies to be developed to improve breast cancer treatment. One such opportunity involves what is known as the PI3K/Akt pathway inside cells. This pathway is present in triple negative breast cancer and carries messages within the cell to drive various cell functions including cell growth and survival. When the PI3K/Akt pathway is active in other forms of cancer, it often responds to targeted drugs but not in triple negative breast cancer. These drugs may not work because few mutations are present in genes that are known to regulate this pathway. The goal of our research is to understand what regulates PI3K/Akt messaging in triple negative breast cancer. We propose to identify essential genetic alterations and determine how these genes might impact PI3K/Akt messaging and breast cancer. The proposed studies will result in a better understanding of PI3K/Akt signaling and serve as the foundation for personalized breast cancer treatment.