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Trust awards $100,000 to UB breast cancer treatment study

Patient receiving chemotherapy

Javier Blanco and colleagues want to know why some breast cancer patients treated with trastuzumab develop cardiotoxicity and some do not. Photo: Douglas Levere

By MARY COCHRANE

Published August 14, 2014

Javier Blanco

Javier Blanco

A UB study that will explore why a breast cancer treatment causes cardiotoxicity in some patients has received significant support to move forward.

The Richard W. and Mae Stone Goode Trust has awarded $100,000 to the research project “Pinpointing Molecular Determinants for the Cardiotoxicity Associated with the Use of Trastuzumab for Breast Cancer Chemotherapy.”

Javier G. Blanco, associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences, is principal investigator of the study. He is collaborating with Vijay Iyer, assistant professor of medicine and a clinical cardiologist; Adolfo Quiñones Lombrana, postdoctoral associate in pharmaceutical sciences, and Tracey O’Connor, clinical oncologist at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

Blanco says research shows that about 30 percent of breast cancers over-express the growth receptor HER2, also known as ERBB2. When breast cancer patients are treated with trastuzumab (Herceptin), a “humanized” monoclonal antibody drug that targets the HER2 receptor, the result has been “significant improvements in breast cancer survival,” he says.

However, this treatment also has caused cardiotoxicity in some patients, resulting in heart muscle damage and dysfunction.

“The clinical use of trastuzumab is hampered by the development of serious cardiotoxicity in some patients,” Blanco says. “A systematic review of randomized clinical trials showed that the risk of heart toxicity is five times more likely for women receiving trastuzumab than women receiving standard therapy alone.”

“It is unknown why some women develop cardiotoxicity while others do not,” says Blanco, adding that “there is a paucity of reports” on this topic. “We hope to reveal new knowledge aimed at addressing this critically important challenge in breast cancer treatment.”

Blanco and his team will conduct studies aimed at uncovering whether changes in specific regions of the HER2 gene increase patients’ risk for cardiotoxicity during treatment with trastuzumab. Their results will provide crucial data for the later preparation of a competitive R01 proposal to the National Institutes of Health.

Ultimately, the results of this work could help inform the development of diagnostic tools that assess a patient’s heart toxicity risk prior to chemotherapy treatment to help promote better outcomes through increased cardiac monitoring and/or preventive medication.

The late William Yorks, a founding trustee, attorney and second cousin to Mae Stone Goode, once said that she “left the funds for cure rather than care” and established the trust for medical research on tuberculosis, cancer and “other diseases of humanity.”

Yorks, who died in 2013, once described Goode, who made many gifts anonymously during her lifetime, as a “woman of strong character.” Gifts from the trust are made in the names of Mae Stone Goode, who died in 1955, and her husband, Richard W. Goode, a real estate investor in Buffalo who died in 1928.