Fox Chase Cancer Center-Temple Health Researcher Earns Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition Grant

December 21, 2015

PHILADELPHIA (December 18, 2015) – Jeffrey R. Peterson, PhD, an award-winning researcher and associate professor of Cancer Biology at Fox Chase Cancer Center – Temple Health, recently earned a $50,000 research grant from the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition (PBCC), along with his colleagues.

The proposal suggests a novel, targeted approach to treating triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) through metabolic reprogramming, and it was selected as one of only four proposals to earn funding by the PBCC for 2016. Fox Chase provided the initial funding to help advance this project through a Translational Research Grant in 2015, and Peterson, the lead researcher in writing the proposal, thanked PBCC and Fox Chase for providing the funding his team needed to pursue this project.

“I’m grateful that Fox Chase took a chance on a promising, but untested idea and provided seed money that allowed the lead postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Alexander Beatty, to generate the critical supportive data for our proposal to the PBCC,” Peterson said. “We appreciate that PBCC recognized the promise of our approach and are anxious to put our theories to the test.

“Now, with funding secured for the upcoming year, I’m confident our team can take advantage of weaknesses in the metabolism of TNBC cells in order to develop new therapeutic approaches, which are desperately needed due to the aggressive nature of the disease,” Peterson said.

Peterson and his team plan on further exploring metabolic reprogramming, a hallmark of cancer and an emerging therapeutic target. In preliminary studies, the researchers measured intracellular metabolites from a large panel of TNBC cell lines and controls, and found that TNBC cell lines, particularly those of the non-basal-like subtype, are highly dependent on the cellular redox buffer glutathione to prevent ferroptosis, a form of cell death.

They hypothesized that “TNBC cells are teetering on the edge of the cliff of ferroptosis. By inhibiting the cancer cells’ ability to make glutathione, we think we can push them over the edge.” By contrast, normal breast cells appear to have plenty of glutathione, and therefore “sit well away from the cliff edge,” providing a way to selectively targeting the cancer.

Peterson said, “We plan to leverage these preliminary studies to obtain additional federal funding to support clinical trials for TNBC patients in the near future.”

The Hospital of Fox Chase Cancer Center and its affiliates (collectively “Fox Chase Cancer Center”), a member of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence five consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship and community outreach. It is the policy of Fox Chase Cancer Center that there shall be no exclusion from, or participation in, and no one denied the benefits of, the delivery of quality medical care on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, disability, age, ancestry, color, national origin, physical ability, level of education, or source of payment.


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