Researchers using new grant to help improve breast cancer treatment for Black women

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Local researchers are using a new grant to help improve breast cancer treatment for Black women. New research may shoe that they are more susceptible to an aggressive form of the disease.

The grant is for $1.3 million and the big question researchers are asking is if Black women need a different type of treatment.

Past research shows that normal breast tissue in Black women contains a certain cell at a much higher number compared to breast tissue in white women. Labs at IU School of Medicine are studying the cells and working to see if breast cancer can come from these cells and understand their role in helping cancer grow.

Dr. Harikrishna Nakshatri is leading the research. He analyzed data from 10 Black women and found that 40 percent carried a genetic mutation called ‘duffy’, which is present in Black women with sub-Saharan Africa ancestry. Research shows that women who carry this mutation might develop a more aggressive form of breast cancer.

“We will be able to identify specific treatments that will help black women recover from this vicious form quickly and in a less toxic way,” Dr. Nakshatri said.

There are existing cancer drugs that target these molecules, but they haven’t been tested for targeted therapy for specific genetic cases. Dr. Nakshatri will use an animal model to find out if those drugs can be used to target breast cancer in black women who carry the duffy mutation.

The research is in the preclinical stage. But there’s hope findings from this research will lead to clinical studies in the coming years.