NEW BRUNSWICK – A research associate in the laboratory of Edmund C. Lattime, PhD, deputy director of The Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ), has been awarded a post-doctoral fellowship grant totaling $92,000 to further explore and better understand how HER2 positive breast cancer metastasizes (spreads) to the central nervous system.
Plainsboro resident Keneshia Haenssen, PhD, was selected as one of only ten investigators nationwide to receive the United Negro College Fund (UNCF)/Merck Postdoctoral Science Research Fellowship. CINJ is a Center of Excellence of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
Among patients diagnosed with HER2 positive metastatic breast cancer who undergo HER2-targeted treatment, between 25 and 50 percent not only become resistant to the treatment, but also go on to develop brain metastases. Through microarray analysis, Haenssen and colleagues identified target genes that may play a role in disease spread to the brain and spinal cord. They are currently targeting these genes to determine their functional roles in disruption of the blood-brain-barrier, the triggering of signals that cause inflammation, and colonization of the central nervous system.
“These studies are extremely relevant to the advancement of breast cancer therapeutics, as central nervous system metastasis remains a serious clinical problem. A better understanding of its biology is clearly needed in order to develop better treatment approaches to improve survival in women with metastatic breast cancer,” noted Dr. Haenssen. “I am honored to receive this fellowship and have the opportunity to further elucidate the mechanisms behind cancer metastasis.”
“Dr. Haenssen’s research exemplifies cutting edge science which brings together genomic analysis and the biology of breast cancer. These studies have the potential to identify new prognostic biomarkers of metastasis and the future identification of new targeted therapies,” said Dr. Lattime, who is also a professor of surgery at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
The fellowship will run through August 2014. Haenssen’s work is also supported by the FM Kirby Foundation