Fred Hutchinson oversees two grants of nearly $8 million to develop blood test for breast cancer

The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center will oversee two major grants totaling nearly $8 million to develop a blood test that can be used in conjunction with mammography to improve early detection of breast cancer.

The first, a $7 million, four-year Breast Cancer Center of Excellence grant to Fred Hutchinson from the U.S. Department of Defense, will involve investigators from 10 institutions in Seattle, Houston and Los Angeles. (Please see list.)

The second is a grant of nearly $1 million from a unique, multi-year, public-private partnership of the Avon Foundation and the National Cancer Institute called "Progress for Patients." The funds will be split equally among Fred Hutchinson, the University of Alabama, Fox Chase Cancer Center and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. (Please see sidebar for more details about the Avon/NCI grant.)

Nicole Urban, Sc.D., a member of Fred Hutchinson's Public Health Sciences Division, will serve as principal investigator of both initiatives.

"Our goal for both projects is to evaluate a variety of breast-cancer biomarkers for their contribution to the early detection of breast cancer. Our vision is that a simple blood test could be used along with mammography to detect breast cancer early in the disease process. We are particularly interested in markers that identify aggressive forms of breast cancer that are missed by mammography," said Urban, also a research professor of health services in the UW School of Public Health and Community Medicine.

While mammography indeed saves lives - reducing deaths from breast cancer by up to 30 percent among women over age 50 - it misses about one in five breast cancers overall. Mammography is least effective in detecting cancer in younger women, who tend to have dense breast tissue that is difficult to X-ray. Other limitations of mammography in younger women include a high rate of false positives that result in unnecessary biopsies and the inability to distinguish between aggre

Contact: Kristen Woodward
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

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