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BCRFA Invests $1.25M to Power Alabama’s Top Institutions in Tackling Breast Cancer

Grants will support 35 innovative projects at Eight Partner Institutes across the state

The Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama (BCRFA) proudly announces its commitment to advancing breast cancer research in Alabama through a substantial investment of $1,250,000 in 2023. This grant funding will support 35 cutting-edge research projects at eight esteemed institutions across the state, further powering a future free from breast cancer. Among the beneficiaries are Alabama State University, CerFlux, Inc., HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, Tuskegee University, O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), University of Alabama, and Mitchell Cancer Institute at the University of South Alabama.

This year’s grants mark a significant milestone, propelling the BCRFA’s cumulative investment in breast cancer research to over $15 million since its founding in 1996. Beth Davis, President & CEO of the BCRFA, emphasized the organization’s dedication to catalyzing breast cancer breakthroughs: “This year’s monumental investment by the BCRFA solidifies our ongoing legacy as a driver of pivotal research within Alabama. Our support spans critical facets, from pioneering early detection strategies to fostering groundbreaking treatment innovations. These investments will deliver hope and tangible advancements to those battling breast cancer.”

Dr. Barry P. Sleckman, M.D., Ph.D., director of the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB, lauded BCRFA’s impact on accelerating research: “The Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama has been a remarkable force in bolstering cancer research within our state. Their funding will propel the work of UAB investigators and their counterparts across the state and we are profoundly grateful for their unwavering support.”

BCRFA funding acts as foundational support for early-stage studies, allowing researchers to generate crucial data necessary for attracting substantial national grants. Numerous projects funded by BCRFA have gone on to secure multimillion-dollar grants from esteemed bodies like the National Institutes of Health, affirming the pivotal role of these initial investments.

The 2023 grant recipients represent a diverse and talented cohort poised to drive significant advancements in breast cancer research, aiding in the pursuit of innovative solutions and enhanced patient care.

The 2023 grantees include:

Alabama State University (Montgomery, AL)

  • Dr. Nivedita Priyadarshini: Design and develop an affordable point-of-care device for non-invasive, early diagnosis of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) from saliva using aLCN-1 functionalized carbon dot (aLCN-1@CD) biosensor

Auburn University (Auburn, AL)

  • Dr. Alexei Kisselev: Highly active liposomal formulation of proteasome inhibitor carfilzomib for the treatment of TNBC
  • Dr. Amit Mitra: A novel strategy to prevent the development of drug resistance in breast cancer

Auburn University (Auburn, AL) / University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa, AL)

  • Drs. Yuping Bao and Robert Arnold: Carrier-free quercetin nanoparticles for overcoming breast cancer drug resistance

CerFlux, Inc. (Birmingham, AL)

  • Dr. Karim Budhwani: Getting the right treatment to the right patient by matching regimens to patient biopsy before treatment

HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology (Huntsville, AL)

  • Dr. Sara Cooper: Inherited breast cancer risk screening and education – Access Matters

Tuskegee University (Tuskegee, AL)

  • Dr. Deepa Bedi: Cancer genomic study to characterize genetic and epigenetic diversity of immune landscape in triple negative breast cancer in women of African ethnicity

University of Alabama at Birmingham
O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center (Birmingham, AL)

  • Dr. Ritu Aneja: Evaluating associations of rurality and neighborhood disadvantage with racial disparities in breast cancer mortality among women in the state of Alabama
  • Dr. Sofia Beas: Neuropathological effects of chemotherapeutic drugs
  • Dr. Smita Bhatia: Predicting the risk of heart failure in breast cancer survivors
  • Dr. Nicole Caston: Understanding how multi-level factors influence cancer clinical trial enrollment decisions by patients living in higher disadvantaged areas
  • Dr. Anindya Dutta: FAM129B/NIBAN2 as a biomarker for therapy with NRF2 inhibitors
  • Dr. Blake Hildreth: Targeting CSF1R/PU.1 signaling and PU.1 superenhancer regulation in tumor progression across breast cancer subtypes
  • Dr. Katia Khoury: Phase II single arm trial of low dose capecitabine in patients with advanced breast cancer
  • Dr. Jianmei Leavenworth: Hijacking axonogenesis to promote breast cancer by a subset of regulatory T cells
  • Dr. Steve Lim: Nuclear FAK-mediated epigenetic reprogramming of triple negative breast cancer
  • Dr. Catherine Parker: Research conducted by Breast Surgical Fellow
  • Dr. Amr Rafat: Elucidating the effects of hypoxia on ribosome biogenesis in breast cancer
  • Dr. Bin Ren: Unique arteriolar niche in expansion of breast cancer stem cells for metastasis
  • Dr. Lalita Shevde-Samant: A novel clinically actionable approach to disable resurgence and metastasis of triple-negative breast cancer
  • Drs. Keshav Singh and Sejong Bae: Mitochondrial trafficking in triple negative breast cancer
  • Dr. Anna Sorace: PDL1-targeted theranostic approaches to enhance combination therapy in TNBC
  • Dr. Sooryanarayana Varambally: MammOnc-DB: Development of a comprehensive breast cancer platform for data analysis, integration and visualization
  • Dr. Courtney Williams: Identifying ideal reimbursement “dose” to reduce clinical trial-related financial toxicity
  • Dr. Jia Xu: Developing novel AKT degrader to selectively inhibit the growth of PI3K/AKT/PTEN pathway mutant breast cancer
  • Dr. Chao Zhang: Chronic stress-regulated tumor-neuroimmune network in triple-negative breast cancer

University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa, AL)

  • Dr. Shreyas Rao: Engineered environments to probe immune cell-mediated reawakening of dormant breast cancer brain micrometastasis

University of South Alabama
Mitchell Cancer Institute (Mobile, AL)

  • Dr. Debanjan Chakroborty: WNK1, A Novel Regulator of Metastatic Breast Cancer
  • Dr. Santanu Dasgupta: Circulating mitochondrial DNA for the detection of breast cancer progression and recurrence
  • Dr. Luis del Pozo-Yauner: Contribution of PERK+ polyploid giant cancer cells in the ethnic disparity of triple negative breast cancer
  • Dr. Simon Grelet: Targeting the nerve-cancer crosstalk to prevent breast cancer metastasis
  • Dr. Chandrani Sarkar: Adipocyte and lymphatic endothelial cell crosstalk in breast cancer
  • Dr. Ajay Singh: Unfolding a novel mechanism for endocrine resistance in breast cancer
  • Dr. Seema Singh: Influence of stress on immune landscape and spatial heterogeneity of breast cancer 

BCRFA funding is made possible with support from corporate and community partners, local and state funders, event patrons, generous individual donors, and sales of the Breast Cancer Research specialty license plate. Available at DMVs across the state, nearly 14,000 vehicles in Alabama sport the Breast Cancer Research tag. One hundred percent of tag sale proceeds received by the BCRFA support local, lifesaving research.

About the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama
Founded in 1996, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama (BCRFA) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to find a cure for breast cancer by funding promising breast cancer research in Alabama and raising community awareness and funding for that research. BCRFA funds promote a comprehensive approach to battling breast cancer by fueling collaborative and innovative research to help diagnose, treat, prevent, and eradicate the disease. Thanks to generous community support, BCRFA’s lifetime investment in life-saving research totals over $15 million. All funding stays in Alabama, but the impact is worldwide. Learn more about our mission and breakthroughs at

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