UAlberta receives $1.6M for breast cancer research

Six researchers funded to pursue discoveries that will improve detection, treatment and prevention.


(Edmonton) Six University of Alberta researchers have received $1.6 million in funding from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation – Prairies/NWT Region. The research grants will help accelerate discovery of new and better ways to detect, treat and prevent breast cancer.

“The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation’s generous donation shows confidence in the expertise and accomplishments of University of Alberta researchers,” said Richard Fedorak, interim dean of the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. “The only cure for cancer is research, and donations to the U of A go towards the research needed to move ever closer to a future without this devastating disease.”

Over the past three decades, research has made incredible strides in reducing breast cancer mortality—survival rates are now up to 88 per cent—but breast cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer-related death in Canadian women.

As the largest comprehensive cancer research institute in Western Canada, the U of A’s Cancer Research Institute of Northern Alberta (CRINA) brings together teams of scientists, doctors, teachers and specialists with access to an impressive cluster of health facilities. Working collaboratively, team members share information, focus on patient needs and translate research discoveries into treatments faster than ever before.

Lynne-Marie Postovit, U of A associate professor of oncology, is one of the recipients of funding from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. Her research project proposes to eliminate breast cancer stem cells by targeting a protein called Nodal. “There’s a very real possibility that we can be targeting Nodal in patients in a first-in-man clinical trial within five years. But you can only go as fast as the funds will allow you to go,” says Postovit.

The other recipients of foundation research grants include

  • Mary Hitt, oncology: Combining image-guided radiation with cancer-killing viruses to improve breast cancer therapy
  • Kurian Joseph, oncology: Reducing cardiac toxicity during radiation therapy for breast cancer
  • Wilson Roa, oncology: Using radiation-sensitive nanoparticles to better target and treat breast cancer
  • Alan Underhill, oncology: Characterizing defects in DNA packaging during breast cancer progression
  • Justin Pare, post-doctoral fellowship grant: Understanding how kinases regulate the protein Argonaute2 and gene expression in breast cancer

The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, established in 1986, invests in research and education that lead to progress in breast cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care.

“Together, with the dedication of our supporters and the great minds behind breast cancer research, we have changed how breast cancer is understood,” says Liz Viccars, CEO of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation – Prairies/NWT Region. “Work being done in labs at the U of A and across the Prairies/NWT Region has helped advance early diagnosis methods and launched personalized treatments, allowing for women—and men—to live longer, fuller lives during and after breast cancer.”

Since 2000, U of A researchers and fellows have received more than $15 million from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation for research projects focusing on breast cancer risk prediction and reduction, early detection, diagnosis/prognosis and response prediction, and targeted treatment.