$1.25 million investment powers Alabama’s top institutions in tackling breast cancer

BCRFA continues to provide substantial gifts to the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center to accelerate breast cancer research.
Written by: Wright Wiggins Rouse
Media contact: Brianna Hoge

1206151799549865.Iap7sbGj0eaXAFJOkj4U height640Barry P. Sleckman, Ph.D.,
Photography: Andrea Mabry
The Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama proudly announces its commitment to advancing breast cancer research in Alabama through a substantial investment of $1.25 million in 2023. This grant funding will support 35 cutting-edge research projects at eight esteemed institutions across the state, further powering a future free from breast cancer. Among the beneficiaries are the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, Alabama State University, CerFlux, Inc., HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, Tuskegee University, University of Alabama and Mitchell Cancer Institute at the University of South Alabama.

This year’s grants mark a significant milestone, propelling the BCRFA’s cumulative investment in breast cancer research to over $15 million since its founding in 1996.

“This year’s monumental investment by the BCRFA solidifies our ongoing legacy as a driver of pivotal research within Alabama and the organization’s dedication to catalyzing breast cancer breakthroughs,” said Beth Davis, president and CEO of BCRFA. “Our support spans critical facets, from pioneering early detection strategies to fostering groundbreaking treatment innovations. These investments will deliver hope and tangible advancements to those battling breast cancer.”

“The Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama has been a remarkable force in bolstering cancer research within our state,” said Barry P. Sleckman, Ph.D., director of the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB. “Their funding will propel the work of UAB investigators and their counterparts across the state, and we are profoundly grateful for their unwavering support.”

BCRFA funding acts as foundational support for early-stage studies, allowing researchers to generate crucial data necessary for attracting substantial national grants. Numerous projects funded by BCRFA have gone on to secure multimillion-dollar grants from esteemed bodies like the National Institutes of Health, affirming the pivotal role of these initial investments.

The 2023 grant recipients represent a diverse and talented cohort poised to drive significant advancements in breast cancer research, aiding in the pursuit of innovative solutions and enhanced patient care.

The 2023 grantees include:

Alabama State University (Montgomery, Alabama)

  • Priyadarshni Nivedita, Ph.D., who will design and develop an affordable point-of-care device for non-invasive, early diagnosis of triple-negative breast cancer from saliva using aLCN-1 functionalized carbon dot biosensor

Auburn University (Auburn, Alabama)

  • Alexei Kisselev, Ph.D., who will investigate highly active liposomal formulation of proteasome inhibitor carfilzomib for the treatment of TNBC
  • Amit Mitra, Ph.D., who will use a novel strategy to prevent the development of drug resistance in breast cancer

Auburn University (Auburn, Alabama) / University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa, Alabama)

  • Yuping Bao, Ph.D., and Robert Arnold, Ph.D., who will look at carrier-free quercetin nanoparticles for overcoming breast cancer drug resistance

CerFlux, Inc. (Birmingham, Alabama)

  • Karim Budhwani, Ph.D., who investigates getting the right treatment to the right patient by matching regimens to patient biopsy before treatment

HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology (Huntsville, Alabama)

  • Sara Cooper, Ph.D., who looks at inherited breast cancer risk screening and education through Access Matters

Tuskegee University (Tuskegee, Alabama)

  • Deepa Bedi, M.D., who leads a cancer genomic study to characterize genetic and epigenetic diversity of immune landscape in triple-negative breast cancer in women of African ethnicity

O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB (Birmingham, Alabama)

University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa, Alabama)

  • Shreyas Rao, Ph.D., who is researching engineered environments to probe immune cell-mediated reawakening of dormant breast cancer brain micrometastasis

University of South Alabama Mitchell Cancer Institute (Mobile, Alabama)

  • Debanjan Chakroborty, Ph.D., who is leading research of WNK1, a novel regulator of metastatic breast cancer
  • Santanu Dasgupta, Ph.D., who is looking at circulating mitochondrial DNA for the detection of breast cancer progression and recurrence
  • Luis del Pozo-Yauner, M.D., who investigates the contribution of PERK+ polyploid giant cancer cells in the ethnic disparity of triple-negative breast cancer
  • Simon Grelet, Ph.D., who will identify targeting the nerve-cancer crosstalk to prevent breas t cancer metastasis
  • Chandrani Sarkar, Ph.D., who is comparing adipocyte and lymphatic endothelial cell crosstalk in breast cancer
  • Ajay Singh, Ph.D., who is unfolding a novel mechanism for endocrine resistance in breast cancer
  • Seema Singh, Ph.D., who is looking at the influence of stress on immune landscape and spatial heterogeneity of breast cancer 

BCRFA funding is made possible with support from corporate and community partners, local and state funders, event patrons, generous individual donors, and sales of the Breast Cancer Research specialty license plate. Available at DMVs across the state, nearly 14,000 vehicles in Alabama sport the Breast Cancer Research tag. One hundred percent of tag sale proceeds received by the BCRFA support local, lifesaving research.