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IU School of Medicine researcher awarded Susan G. Komen grant

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Breast cancer survivor with children

INDIANAPOLIS — A grant from Susan G. Komen will help bolster research at Indiana University School of Medicine aimed at addressing outcome disparities in African-American patients being treated for breast cancer.

Bryan Schneider, MD, is the recipient of a $250,000 Komen Breast Cancer Disparities Research Supplemental Grant, which will support his research on how genetic ancestry affects the response to breast cancer therapy in African-American women. Schneider’s work, launched as a National Cancer Institute-sponsored clinical trial, EAZ171, focuses on taxane-induced peripheral neuropathy (TIPN), a serious side effect which is linked to worse outcomes in patients. Neuropathy is nerve damage that can show up as weakness, numbness or throbbing pain in the fingertips and toes. It can occur during treatment and has the potential to be irreversible.

“The goal of this study is to personalize the best type of chemotherapy for African-American women who require therapy in the curative setting for their breast cancer,” said Schneider, a professor of medicine and medical and molecular genetics and the Vera Bradley Chair of Oncology at IU School of Medicine. “We found that African-American women are markedly more likely to get neuropathy from the class of chemotherapy called taxanes when compared to Caucasian women. In this trial, we will use the genetic makeup of each patient to unravel which taxane may cause the least amount of neuropathy and result in the best quality of life, while still being effective at killing cancer cells.”

Schneider, a physician-scientist at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center and Vera Bradley Foundation Center for Breast Cancer Research, is also studying the information and communication needs of African-American patients. In partnership with community organizations R.E.D. Alliance and Pink-4-Ever, the team will work to build a shared decision-making tool that will help patients work with their physicians to make the best treatment decisions. These studies will address the disparity of TIPN in African-American women, leading to better outcomes for these patients.

“African-Americans are underrepresented in almost all cancer specific clinical trials across the United States,” said Schneider. “The reasons for this are multifactorial, but include a distrust derived from studies where researchers did not conduct research in an appropriate, ethical and caring way. Additionally, recruitment efforts to date have not been specific to or in collaboration with the African-American community. We are hopeful to change that trend with this trial, as this is one of the first and only trials to be conducted in the cooperative group setting with enrollment completely focused on African-American patients.”

Schneider received this grant during Susan G. Komen’s inaugural Breast Cancer Disparities Research Summit on October 8, the only event of its kind in the United States focused on breast cancer disparities. The grants provide up to $250,000 in support over two years to bring a disparities research lens or focus to the scope of work conducted by the researcher. The goal of this grant is to better understand and address why certain populations of breast cancer patients have different outcomes, including why African-American women in the United States are 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than Caucasian women. The grants were made possible through the support of Genentech, a member of the Roche Group.

The EAZ171 trial was designed and conducted by researchers in the ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group with support from the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health. It is also supported by a Susan G. Komen for the Cure Promise Award, the Indiana University Grand Challenge Precision Health Initiative, and the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
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Anna Carrera

Research Communications Manager

Anna Carrera is the research communications manager for Indiana University's Precision Health Initiative, IU School of Medicine and the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute. She joined the team in June 2019 after working as a TV news rep...