The Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama (BCRFA) announced an investment of $1.05 million in Alabama-based breast cancer research, bringing the organization’s total impact over 25 years to nearly $11 million.

Matching their 2019 investment, the organization will support 14 research projects throughout the state, including studies at the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), Auburn UniversityCerFluxMitchell Cancer Institute at University of South AlabamaTuskegee University and Southern Research. Funding was raised in 2020 by corporate sponsorships, special events, individual donations, grants from local, state and federal funders and sales of the Breast Cancer Research specialty license plate.

“Despite COVID-19, individuals and companies throughout the state stepped up for breast cancer research,” said Beth Bradner Davis, executive director of the BCRFA. “Our staff and board are truly thrilled to match last year’s investment, allowing us to support critical projects which will change therapies and treatments for breast cancer patients here in Alabama and around the world. Unfortunately, diagnoses don’t stop during a pandemic. This investment will ensure that research won’t either.”

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The BCRFA invests in projects in developing stages, providing “seed money” to attract grant funding. From there, many projects go on to win national grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and others.

“The support of organizations like the BCRFA is crucial to our work at the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center,” said Dr. Barry Sleckman, director of the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Developing projects often have an undeniable positive impact for research in the field of breast cancer. Each discovery brings us closer to a cure – and the BCRFA is helping get us there.”

The 2020 award recipients include:

  • Dr. Randall Davis; Suzanne Lapi, Ph.D.; Dr. Erica Stringer-Reasor – “Advancing the Prognostic, Immunotherapeutic, and Imaging Potential of FCRL6 in Breast Cancer” (O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB).
  • Mick Edmonds, Ph.D. – “A Novel SRC Inhibitor for the Treatment of Metastatic Breast Cancer” (O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB).
  • Xu Feng, Ph.D.; Douglas Hurst, Ph.D. – “RANK Signaling Pathways in Breast Cancer Development” (O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB).
  • Selvarangan Ponnazhagan, Ph.D. – “Combinatorial Genetic Immunotherapy and RANKL Antagonism for Breast Cancer” (O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB).
  • Troy Randall, Ph.D.; Dr. Erica Stringer-Reasor; Ahmed Elkhanany, MD – “Identifying Neo-Antigen-Reactive T Cells in Breast Cancer Using Organoid Cultures” (O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB).
  • Rajeev S. Samant, Ph.D.; David A. Schneider, Ph.D. – “Unraveling a Novel Vulnerability of Breast Cancer” (O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB).
  • Nan Cher (Flo) Yeo, Ph.D. – “Understanding WRN-Dependent Pathways to Regulate Genome Stability in TNBC” (O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB).
  • Corinne Augelli- Szafran, Ph.D.; Omar Moukha Chafiq, Ph.D.; Rebecca Boohaker, Ph.D. – “Development of Novel Clofarabine Analogs for Breast Cancer Therapy,” BCRFA Impact Award (Southern Research).
  • Karim Budhwani, Ph.D., DLA – “Personalized Oncology Efficacy Test (POET)” – BCRFA Innovation Award (CerFlux).
  • Natalie Gassman, Ph.D.; Michelle Schuler, Ph.D.; Marie Miguad, Ph.D. – “Targeted Nanoparticle Delivery to Reduce STAT3 and Improve Cell Killing in Triple Negative Breast Cancer” (Mitchell Cancer Institute at University of South Alabama).
  • Nancy Merner, Ph.D.; Dr. Erica Stringer-Reasor – “Breaking Research Participation Barriers in Alabama – An African American Breast Cancer Genetics Study” (Auburn University and O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB.
  • Nancy Merner, Ph.D.; Clayton Yates, Ph.D. – “The Identification of Genetic Risk Factors Associated with Hereditary African American Breast Cancer” (Auburn University and Tuskegee University).
  • Jingjing Qian, Ph.D. – “Reducing Breast Cancer Risk in Alabama – The Role of Medications” (Auburn University)
  • Robert Sobol, Ph.D. – “Exploiting a Novel, Live-Cell, Real-Time Poly-ADP-Ribose Probe for Discovery of PARG Inhibitors” (Mitchell Cancer Institute at University of South Alabama).

Efforts that helped fund this year’s donation included community events throughout the state of Alabama, grant awards and corporate partnerships. Companies that sponsored included the Alabama Power Foundation, ARC Realty, Bank of America/Merrill, Caring Foundation/Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, Hill Crest Foundation, iHeart Media, Protective Life Foundation, Renasant Bank, Robert M. Meyer Foundation, Sirote & Permutt, Spectrum Reach, Tameron Automotive, Thompson Family Foundation, Thrivent Financial, Wind Creek Wetumpka, UAB Benevolent Fund, Vulcan Materials Co. and more.

About half of the total $1.05 million donation was raised through sales of the BCRFA specialty car tag. Available at DMVs statewide, nearly 14,000 vehicles in Alabama sport the Breast Cancer Research tag. The BCRFA invests 100% of funds from tag sales into research.

The BCRFA supports a comprehensive approach to battling breast cancer through collaborative and innovative research to help diagnose, treat, prevent and eradicate the disease. All funds raised remain in Alabama, supporting local research, which in turn, makes a national impact.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)