Vera Bradley Foundation Scholars collaborate with faculty and each other to advance our understanding of breast cancer and improve care for women.

Vera Bradley Foundation Scholars

Through the generous support of the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer, the IU School of Medicine is training a new generation of breast cancer researchers. Vera Bradley Foundation Scholars come from around the globe to collaborate with faculty and each other to advance our understanding of breast cancer and improve care for women.

Meet Xi Wu, PhD

Xi Wu, PhD, was just four years old when she began to notice her great-grandmother’s health failing. Their daily visits to the park weren’t the same, and she soon learned from her parents that breast cancer was to blame. “Thinking about her is always a reminder that breast cancer impacts so many families. We need to find better treatments,” Wu says. “For me, breast cancer research has always been personal.”

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Today, Wu is developing the skills and expertise she needs to make an impact for women with breast cancer through the Vera Bradley Foundation Scholars Program at IU School of Medicine. The program is designed to train the next generation of breast cancer research leaders.

Wu has already notched some impressive experience. As a postdoctoral fellow, she worked on an early detection test for breast cancer. The test was based on analyzing dysfunction of telomeres, the tips of chromosomes that shorten with age, decreasing protection of DNA.

As part of her current work, Wu is a member of a team studying why patients respond differently to the same cancer medications, with some developing debilitating or life-threatening side effects. For instance, Wu is growing heart cells in the laboratory. Her goal is to understand how some individuals’ genetic variations, when exposed to cancer drugs, result congestive heart failure.

“This is something we couldn’t do a decade ago, but with the technology that’s evolved, we’re able to grow beating heart cells in a culture dish, which is what makes our research possible,” says Wu, who works in the laboratory of Vera Bradley Investigator Bryan Schneider, MD, as a Vera Bradley Foundation Scholar. “The most rewarding part for me is that it’s now possible to help patients in the near future.”

For Wu, who is the mother of a young daughter, that’s where her work becomes personal again. “When my daughter grows up, my hope is that breast cancer isn’t scary for her generation as it was for mine,” she said.