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Break Through Cancer Awards $50M in Grants for Collaborative Projects in Ovarian, Pancreatic, Brain Cancers

NEW YORK – Break Through Cancer announced on Tuesday $50 million in grants supporting several collaborative research projects focused on overcoming roadblocks in treating three cancers — ovarian cancer, glioblastoma, and pancreatic cancer. 

The grant funds will not be divided up between researchers working independently at separate institutions, as with a typical research grant. Instead, the funding will support four research projects, each a collaboration among scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University, Memorial Sloan Kettering, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and MD Anderson Cancer Center. 

According to Break Through Cancer, this approach is intended to overcome barriers to teamwork between institutions by incorporating systems for sharing data in real time. The grant structure will include contractual agreements to minimize administrative burdens on researchers and facilitate authorship and intellectual property rights. 

Two of the projects will focus on ovarian cancer. One will investigate the implications of ovarian cancer origins in the fallopian tubes through preventive surgical fallopian tube removal and search for new biomarkers to advance ovarian cancer screening. A second ovarian cancer project will develop new blood biopsy and surgical techniques to monitor minimal residual disease and carry out a clinical trial to evaluate MRD after frontline therapy as a primary endpoint. 

Another project will seek to restart stalled therapeutic progress in glioblastoma. Here, the goal is to establish a new research paradigm through a series of biopsies in the same patient and explore which therapies are delivered to the tumor with the desired effect. 

Lastly, the grant funding will support a project to target and drug the KRAS gene in pancreatic cancer, by investigating the reasons why some patients respond to treatment, while others don't. KRAS is mutated in more than 90 percent of pancreatic cancers. Although the first KRAS inhibitor, Amgen's Lumakras (sotorasib), entered the market last year for KRAS G12C-mutated advanced non-small cell lung cancer, there are no KRAS targeted therapies for pancreatic cancer. 

Within this project, which is supported in partnership with the Lustgarten Foundation, researchers will use single-cell technologies to explore tumor biology in organoids, mice, and humans, and ink drug development partnerships to advance new KRAS inhibitors for pancreatic cancer. According to Break Through Cancer, this project will take advantage of the large number of patients at partner institutions with rare KRAS mutations, enrolling for trials that would be difficult to do at just one cancer center. 

"In the near future, we look forward to partnering with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies as well as technology developers to further expand the impact of Break Through Cancer," Tyler Jacks, president of the cancer research funding organization founded in 2021, said in statement.