Xin Lu, the John M. and Mary Jo Boler Assistant Professor of biology, was awarded a 2018 Susan G. Komen research grant to identify potential new therapies for treating metastatic breast cancer.
Lu’s $450,000 Career Catalyst Research Grant, to be distributed over three years, was one of 62 grants awarded by Susan G. Komen. The non-profit organization awarded $26 million this year, with 70 percent of the money going toward studies involving drug resistance and metastasis.
Lu is the endowed junior chair of Boler-Parseghian Center for Rare and Neglected Diseases and is also affiliated with the Harper Cancer Research Institute. Lu will collaborate with fellow Harper researcher Siyuan Zhang, the Dee Associate Professor of biology, and Jun Li, associate professor of applied and computational mathematics and statistics, on their study, “Single Cell Study of Unique Leukocyte Subset Containing Metastatic Tumor Vesicles.”
The study focuses on neutrophils, which are the body’s most abundant type of immune cells. Cancer metastasizes, or spreads, with the help of non-cancerous cells in the tumor. Neutrophils have previously been shown to both promote and inhibit metastasis, and Lu’s research will attempt to identify the controlling mechanism that turns “good” neutrophils into “bad” neutrophils.
“We really appreciate Susan G. Komen for enabling this line of research,” Lu said. “With this funding, we can investigate the detailed mechanism of breast-cancer-associated neutrophils, with the chance to identify potential new therapeutic options for treating metastatic breast cancer.”
Though some breast cancers are treatable, more than 41,000 women and men in the United States die from aggressive breast cancers, according to Susan G. Komen. The organization’s goal is to reduce those deaths.