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NCI Grants $1.9M to Roswell Park to Study Molecular Race-Based Breast Cancer Disparities

NEW YORK – The Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center said on Wednesday that the National Cancer Institute has awarded a $1.9 million grant to one of its research teams to study the role of long noncoding RNAs in race-based breast cancer disparities.

The NCI has awarded the grant to Roswell Park epidemiologist Zhihong Gong's lab, where researchers will investigate how these gene-regulating molecules affect differences in prognosis between Black and white breast cancer patients. Patients of African ancestry are more likely to have breast cancer subtypes with poor prognosis, such as high-grade, estrogen receptor-negative and triple-negative breast cancers, than patients of European descent, and this grant will help Gong's lab study why.

The team will access tissue samples from African American women stored within existing databases, analyze the samples via next-generation sequencing, and combine the molecular findings with data on tumor characteristics, clinical outcomes, treatments received, and lifestyle factors. Together, these data will be used to help Gong's lab identify the long noncoding RNAs and other factors associated with poor prognosis in Black women.

"We understand that abnormal expression of certain long noncoding RNAs is associated with breast cancer metastasis and cancer cell survival, but studies to date have focused exclusively on white women, and few have used next-generation sequencing technology to provide unbiased and comprehensive profiling," Gong said in a statement. "It's our hope that our findings will shed light on new tumor markers and the development of targeted preventive and therapeutic strategies for people at high risk for breast cancer."