Komen for the Cure

Komen grants $3.6 million to Duke, UNC breast cancer research

Posted August 1, 2013
Updated August 2, 2013

— Triangle universities will have an additional $3.6 million for breast cancer research courtesy of grants announced Thursday by the Susan G. Komen foundation.

Breast cancer research at Duke University Duke, UNC research benefits from Komen grants

The grants will fund 10 different research programs, including the work of Duke University's Kimberly Blackwell. Blackwell was featured this year in Time magazine's list of 100 most influential people for her leadership of a major international study that resulted in approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration of a breast cancer drug with fewer unpleasant side effects than chemotherapy.

The Triangle investments are part of $42 million distributed by Komen nationwide in 2013.

The grants represent a huge return on the $281,000 the local Komen affiliate sent to support national programs.

“Of the net funds we raise, 75 percent stays here to support our local community health and education programs," said Pam Kohl, executive director of the Komen North Carolina Triangle to the Coast Affiliate.

"We are so proud to be able to work with Duke and Carolina and fund the kind of work that they're doing," she said.

“In 2013, our affiliate contributed $281,000 to the national research. To have $3.6 million returned to our area is a remarkable return on investment.”

Two of the largest grants go to researchers at Duke University.

  • Dr. David Kirsch is working to understand how radiation therapy can cause heart damage in breast cancer patients and testing new cancer therapies to prevent that side effect.
  • Dr. Donald McDonnell is investigating how tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs), a type of cell found around or within tumors, “trick” the body’s immune system to keep it from recognizing and destroying cancer cells. His team wants to learn if new drugs can be developed to target an enzyme present in TAMs.

Komen sponsors first study of environmental link

Among research funds Komen sent to Duke is a portion of a $4.5 million investment in the study of the role of the environment in breast cancer development. Duke is one of four institutions to work on that problem. Others are: Brigham and Women’s Medical Center in Boston; Emory University in Atlanta; and the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

“In each of these grants, we are attempting to move beyond theories to establish a solid base of scientific evidence on the role of environmental exposures to breast cancer development,” said Chandini Portteus, Komen's national chief mission officer.

Among the projects at Duke is one to consider the impact of radiation therapy on the heart. "We're hoping to understand how radiation affects the heart and causes damage and hopefully develop ways to protect the heart from radiation-induced injury," explained Dr. David Kirsch, a radiation oncologist at Duke.

Researchers will also study: 

  • The potential impact of exposure to environmental pollutants in areas where breast cancers are disproportionately high, or in so called “cancer clusters”
  • The impact of air pollution on breast cancer development
  • The role of synthetic chemicals (phthalates) found in consumer products and medications in breast cancer development.

"The incidence of breast cancer is 11 percent higher in eastern North Carolina than the rest of the nation. The breast cancer mortality rate is 20 percent higher. That suggests some environmental factors play a role," said Dr. Allen Mask.

The work of researchers at Duke and UNC could make a difference in the future diagnosis, treatment and outcomes for cancer patients in the Triangle.

"The work of UNC's Dr. Lisa Carey can help us better understand how breast cancer spreads and how to prevent it," Mask said. "She's also working at how well breast cancer drugs are working, and how we can prevent resistance to those drugs."


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  • Pooter McGooter Aug 6, 2013

    Is this the only donation Komen has made? How come this is news but not the other donations they make ... for example, to Planned Parenthood. How come that's never publicized as a news story. The donation to Duke/UNC is in line with what Komen bills itself as, thus you would think the donations to Planner Parenthood would be more news worth.

  • JamesEvans Aug 5, 2013

    "Wonderful!! Good to see and know that my donations are going where they should!"

    Ehh, maybe a small % of your donated or raised money is going to research. The rest pays for my cancer awareness party alcohol and pink running shoes.

  • A Libertarian Aug 2, 2013

    mpheels - komen is about as political as you can get. Non sure where you get they are non-political. They donate heavy to liberal politicians and their causes and not one penny to conservatives.

  • A Libertarian Aug 2, 2013

    I know a lot of people that refuses donation and I am one. They mis represent themselves funding abortions. They should stick to cancer.

  • lapj Aug 1, 2013

    As someone who is currently battling breast cancer, I am grateful for ALL donations to research. Please don't get so jaded by one charity that you throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water.

  • mpheels Aug 1, 2013

    I used to work for a Komen funded research project. They required every study to send 1-2 people to an annual research meeting. That meeting was the most extravagant conference I've ever attended. We paid for hotel and airfare, and Komen paid for everything else, including the party on the last night with free alcohol (limited to 2 drinks per person, but still unheard of for people used to state and federal grants). I hate to think about how much the meeting cost, with very little gained in terms of professional development. It was basically one long social event. The meeting took place in 2007, right as the primaries for the 2008 campaign were winding up. Mike Huckabee sat on the healthcare reform panel, with no other political figures for balance. The surprise keynote speaker was Mitt Romney. Nancy Brinker didn't even try to hide her politics. Everyone is entitled to their beliefs, but you need to at least put on a neutral front when you run a non-political charity.

  • WakeUpAmerica Aug 1, 2013

    You always hear of Donating to cancer research, relay for life ect. but still no cure.

    Kinda weird. Probably already have a cure.

    Wish they could have saved my grandmother. She was an exceptionally lady, who, if you didn't know, you would have never guessed she was sick and was going through chemo. Had the most beautiful and weed-free garden in the county. I guess that's why I get kinda P.Oed with Donations to cancer research when it seems to me, with all the technology and intelligence they have now, there is still no cure. Something else weird is we are the only country to have GMO foods and we have the highest autism and cancer rates.

    *Im still hoping for a cure though, so don't take me the wrong way*

  • seankelly15 Aug 1, 2013

    CestLaVie -

    I have already commented on your post and that of your respondent.

  • CestLaVie Aug 1, 2013

    Komen AND such government agencies like USDA & FDA, for starters. Riddled with corruption.

  • I am not who you think I am Aug 1, 2013

    This should be $3.6 TRILLION, considering all the millions Komen has rooked out of people over the decades; considering how much of those millions they've used to support their OWN LIFESTYLE of the foundation's owners/founders/top dogs; considering how they skew statistics to make donating people think the war on cancer is being won by drugs & chemo & radiation & surgeries; considering that the war on cancer was won decades ago by a mere change in nutrition & lifestyle; and MOSTLY, considering that a majority of the people DO NOT believe or understand a word I'm writing but will downright fall all over themselves believing what government, media, and the medical, food & pharma industries tell them. Following each other, just like brainless sheep...cestlavie

    are you talking about the komen foundation or the obama admin. it could be either...but great comment