The Piccolo Fund is currently supporting three innovative breast cancer research projects at Rush.
EXAMINING THE ROLE OF COLON BACTERIA IN BREAST CANCER
There are many widely recognized risk factors for breast cancer (e.g. exposure to hormones such as estrogen, family history, obesity, diet, etc.). Recent research indicates that gastrointestinal microbiota — the viruses, bacteria, and organisms living in a person’s gut– could be an overlooked but important risk factor of breast cancer that interplays with the more commonly known risk factors, particularly those involving hormone exposure.
Ece Mutlu, MD, MS, MBA is a gastroenterologist at Rush who focuses primarily on the microbiome. Working with samples from patients diagnosed with breast cancer, Dr. Mutlu and her colleagues are trying to identify and isolate specific bacteria that may play a role in increasing breast cancer risk by elevating exposure to estrogen. The identification of such bacteria could potentially provide early screening and therapeutic options in the future.
The Piccolo Fund is providing the seed funding for this initial investigation. Assuming promising results, Dr. Mutlu will then use the data collected from these pilot studies to apply to the NIH for additional funding to further this line of inquiry.
UNDERSTANDING & PREVENTING CARDIOTOXICITY IN BREAST CANCER PATIENTS
Other than second malignancy, heart disease is the leading cause of mortality in breast cancer patients and survivors – often a result of the intense oncologic treatment which these patients have undergone. Doxorubicin (DOX), one of the major cancer therapies employed in the treatment of breast cancer, can cause dose-dependent damage to myocardial cells.
Tochukwu Okwuosa, DO specializes in cardio-oncology, the management of cardiovascular issues in cancer patients and survivors. Dr. Okwuosa is researching the prospective role of suPAR, a circulating protein present in the blood, plasma, serum, urine, and spinal fluid, in the development of cardiotoxicity. While suPAR is shown to be elevated in cancer or as a marker of chronic disease, it is yet to be determined as a possible marker of chemotherapy (particularly DOX)-induced cardiomyopathy. Dr. Okwuosa’s research will seek to answer these questions and determine if SuPAR is a target for further investigation in predicting or preventing cardiotoxicity in cancer patients and survivors.
SUPPORTING PATIENT CLINICAL TRIALS IN BREAST CANCER
In 2016, The Piccolo Fund will continue to support breast cancer clinical trials among patients of the Rush University Cancer Center. These clinical trials are designed to answer specific questions about biomedical interventions (e.g. novel vaccines, drugs treatments, or new ways of using known drugs), generating safety and effectiveness information. The availability of clinical trials at Rush enables us to offer our patients the most innovative courses of treatment and latest potential breakthroughs.