Sidewalks to Science: Getting to know Dr. April Kloxin, Ph.D. at the University of Delaware

Dr. Kloxin

Getting to know Dr. April Kloxin, Ph.D. at the University of Delaware

Dedicating her life to finding a cure for breast cancer, Dr. April Kloxin is driven to help us meet our Bold Goal of reducing the current number of breast cancer deaths in the U.S. by 50% by 2026. As an Assistant Professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, she is addressing the issue of late recurrence for breast cancer survivors.

In this month’s Sidewalks to Science blog, we will get to know Dr. Kloxin a little better.

When I’m not in the lab I…

  • Love to make things! These range from making materials in the lab that mimic tissues in the body to cooking dinner tonight! My favorite quick meals are breakfast foods, which I like any time of day.
  • Love being out in nature, especially hiking. I take my two little ones (two boys, ages four and two) out to our local White Clay Creek Preserve or Longwood Gardens when the weather is nice.
  • Am passionate about solving big problems through science and believe collaboration with others is key.
Dr. Kloxin with Augie and Luke at Longwood Gardens

With my two little ones at Longwood Gardens

What I do…

Study how the environment surrounding breast cancer cells can lead to metastasis

My research group is working to develop materials that mimic the body tissues where breast cancer recurrence is likely to occur. Our team is trying to understand how the environment of these tissues causes dormant breast cancer cells to “wake up”, leading to recurrence.

Breast cancer is…personal to me and my family

My mother is a breast cancer survivor who currently is 13 years disease-free. As a co-survivor, I know firsthand some of the challenges people with breast cancer and survivors face. When my mother was diagnosed, I looked at literature to learn about the latest treatment options for her type of ER+ breast cancer. I realized that patients face a constant concern of recurrence, even after successful initial treatment. Therefore, I decided to focus my research efforts on addressing this outstanding issue of late recurrence.

Dr. Kloxin with student Lisa Sawicki in lab looking at breast cancer cells in 3D culture

With Lisa Sawicki, student, looking at breast cancer cells in 3D culture

Working with patients…has been both motivating and enriching.

Our patient advocate, Kimberly Newman-McCown, provided valuable perspective on the needs of people with breast cancer and kept our work focused on developing tools and finding solutions that will help patients within the next decade.

People with breast cancer should…stay strong and engaged.

Patients and survivors are amazing, and your stories inspire and inform our efforts to find solutions.

Komen is…getting the word out about our research efforts!

I have been excited to engage with our local press to get the word out about our research funded by Komen. This year, I am organizing a team with my research group for the Komen Race for the Cure in Philadelphia, PA.

Family 2017 on vacation in NYC

2017 Family Vacation to NYC’s American Museum of Natural History

Quote…

”Stay strong and engaged! You are amazing and your stories inspire and inform our efforts to find solutions!”

Note: Dr. Kloxin is a Komen grant recipient generously funded by American Airlines.

From Sidewalks to Science: An On-Route Look at Komen’s Research with Dr. Katherine Hoadley

race_3020_photo_49091393

Opening Ceremonies

Dr. Hoadley, can you tell us a bit about what led you to do breast cancer research?

When I started my breast cancer research 16 years ago, I did not have a personal connection to the disease. However, over the years, I have come to work closely with patient advocates and the breast cancer survivor community through my volunteer efforts with Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. My interaction with breast cancer survivors has had a positive impact on my research in several ways.  Hearing their stories has been a strong motivational factor for my daily research activities and has helped me improve my ability to share my genomics research with the public.

IMG_9202

On The Route

Since we’ve got some time, could you tell us a bit about your current research?

My work is focused on breast cancer classification and better understanding the molecular events that define different subsets of the disease or what we call molecular subtypes.  One subtype called basal-like is an aggressive form of cancer that is enriched with triple negative breast cancers, cancers that are negative for estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor and lack amplification of HER2. Comparing breast cancers with other cancer types from the Cancer Genome Atlas, I found the basal-like subtype was distinct from other breast cancers. This, along with different risk profiles, mutations, and cancer progression suggests they represent a unique subset of breast cancers.  My current research is further classifying this aggressive breast cancer type and analyzing clinical trial data to determine if we can predict response to therapy.

IMG_1580

At Camp

Now that we’ve made it “home” for the night and are enjoying the support of our crew, can you tell us about how your work would be affected without Komen funding?

This grant has allowed me to set up some of my own independent research on breast cancer. I also work closely with other Komen-funded researchers at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill using the Komen-funded Carolina Breast Cancer Study to investigate racial differences in the PAM50 molecular subtyping.

Day 2

What would you say to somebody who’s just been diagnosed with breast cancer?

I am not a clinician and do not feel qualified to give advice to breast cancer patients. However, I think it is important that patients know they can have an important impact on research.  They can help shape the focus of research and guide us to fit the needs of the breast cancer community.

IMG_1581

Cheering Station

Look at all of these enthusiastic supporters out along the route! Tell us about how you are involved with Komen outside of the lab.

I have been volunteering at the Raleigh, North Carolina Komen Race for the Cure for the last 14 years.  I started with day of event volunteering and later increased my involvement by becoming the co-chair of the Survivor’s Committee and have been highly involved in the race planning committee for the last seven years.  I help oversee the Survivors’ Tent, Survivors’ Tribute and Celebration, and the Survivor Awards. I have come to know so many of the female and male breast cancer survivors in my area and have enjoyed seeing them return each year and offer support to survivors who attend their first race. I also attend the Komen North Carolina Triangle to the Coast Research Luncheon and Young Researchers Round Table Breakfasts that bring together researchers in the community.

race_3020_photo_49091581

Mile 59

The finish line is in sight! In working with patient advocates, how have they impacted your research from a patient perspective?

I have been fortunate to interact with patient advocates through both my own grant work and in participation at grant study sections. They helped me gain a better understanding of the full picture of cancer treatment and effects on the person, their family, and the community.  I have seen the impact advocates have had in making patient-reported outcomes move toward reality and how that has translated into better overall care for the patient.

As a researcher working with genomic and clinical data, data sharing and availability has always been an important issue.  While advancements were made during the microarray era for making data available, we have now moved into sequencing, which brings up additional privacy and safety concerns.  However, most patient advocates and survivors I have talked to want the information about their cancers shared.  By involving patient advocates, we can ensure that we share data in a manner that is protective of patient privacy yet continues to support future research.

race_3020_photo_49091290

Closing Ceremonies

Thanks for walking us through your research, Dr. Hoadley! Any final thoughts you’d like to share with our walkers, crew and supporters?

Part of my research is analyzing molecular data from a recent clinical trial.  While the analysis is early, we hope we will be able to evaluate and determine predictors of who will respond to chemotherapy so we can help improve future clinical trials and treatment choices.

Dr. Katherine Hoadley is an Assistant Professor in Cancer Genetics at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and has been a Career Catalyst Research grantee since 2016. Since 1982, Susan G. Komen has funded $956 million in breast cancer research, second only to the U.S. government and more than any other nonprofit in the world. Learn more here.

IMG_1578

Pit Stop

Three things to know about Dr. Hoadley:

  1. My dad is a scientist and was in graduate school when I was born. He encouraged my love of science by taking me to the lab throughout my childhood.
  2. I grew up in West Virginia; the mountains always will draw me more than an ocean.
  3. I ran track in high school and college and I still hold my high school’s high jump record.

Grab and Go 

Here are three ways you can use this information to help reach your 3-Day fundraising or recruiting goals:

  1.  Breast cancer is not a singular disease. There are many types that affect people in a wide range of ways. Komen-funded research into all forms of breast cancer can lead to new treatments and informative work towards a cure.
  2. You make a difference! Patients can have an important impact on research, by helping shape its focus, and guiding researchers like Dr. Hoadley find ways to fit the needs of all members of the breast cancer community.
  3. Money raised stays in the local communities. Dr. Hoadley, for example, has been volunteering at Komen events in Raleigh, North Carolina for 14 years. Now, she is also collaborating with other researchers at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill thanks to a Komen grant.

IMG_6904

Sample Tweets:

Take an On-Route Look at @SusanGKomen’s Research in our latest “Sidewalks to Science” chat with Komen-grantee Dr. Katherine Hoadley. She is researching new forms of #breastcancer in search of a cure! (link) #The3Day

Sample Facebook Post:

Take an On-Route Look at @SusanGKomen’s Research in our latest “Sidewalks to Science” chat with Dr. Katherine Hoadley! She, and other researchers and scientific advocates, are making great strides in cancer research, especially in the research of new forms of breast cancer to help find a cure! (link) #The3Day

Insight Into Komen’s 2017 Research Grants

This year, Komen announced $30.7 million in research funding for 98 research grants which will mostly focus on discovering new treatments and improving our understanding of the most lethal forms of breast cancer – helping us move closer to achieving our Bold Goal.

For the first time, Komen will be giving members of the public an opportunity to directly fund specific research by participating in a crowdfunding initiative on Komen’s website.

We wanted to share with you the grant process and how the 2017 portfolio breaks down this year since 75% of net proceeds from your fundraising support this research and we could not accomplish any of this work without you.

Peer-Review

Komen has a renowned peer-review process – lead by Komen’s Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) – that ensures the organization is funding the best and most imperative forms of research. Advocates and breast cancer patients also take part in peer-review, to ensure all aspects of breast cancer needs are being covered. You can learn more about peer-review here.

The 2017 research grants came through the request for applications (RFA) issued last year, prior to the Bold Goal announcement in September of 2016. Still, 41.3% of Komen’s grants are focusing on metastatic breast cancer research and 54.4% of grants are focusing on new treatments.

The 2018 process for new proposals began in April and all applications submitted were asked to directly support Komen’s efforts towards the Bold Goal. Researchers were invited to submit projects that addressed metastasis or resistance to current therapies.

This Year

In 2017, Komen research funding went to institutions in 27 states and across 8 countries. The majority of grants are focusing on new screening technologies, metastatic and aggressive types of breast cancer and understanding and addressing disparities in breast cancer. By targeting metastatic disease – which is responsible for almost all of the nation’s 40,000 annual breast cancer deaths – Komen is hoping to reduce breast cancer deaths in the U.S. dramatically. To date, Komen has funded more than $180 million in metastatic breast cancer research. 2017 funding also includes $17.6 million to early-career investigators which helps to ensure a continuum of breast cancer research across generations.

Komen’s 2017 portfolio includes*:

  • 37 grants expanding our knowledge of metastatic breast cancer and how to better treat it or prevent it;
  • 42 grants looking into triple negative breast cancer, an aggressive subtype of breast cancer; 59 grants focused on new therapies;
  • 24 investigating drug resistance (why drugs stop working in some patients);
  • 9 on disparities in breast cancer outcomes;
  • As well as projects investigating inflammatory breast cancer, early detection, prevention, Big Data and more.

Crowdfunding

This fall, Komen is making it possible for supporters to make a personal impact on breast cancer research. During National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, Komen will highlight four metastatic breast cancer researchers and encourage donations to their specific grants. More information on the crowdfunding initiative will be announced in October.

Thank You!

When you walk and raise money you are making a direct contribution to our grants. Funds that you raise through 3-Day could  support a young scientist for a day working toward finding the cures, or could support an oncologist for a day as they run clinical trials to find the cures for breast cancer. We could not fund potentially lifesaving research without your help and support. Thank you for the impact that you make here at Komen and always being More Than Pink.

You can learn more about Komen’s 2017 funding here.