SAN ANTONIO (Dec. 9, 2009) — Leaving a lasting legacy in the host city for the Women’s Final Four is an annual goal of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). With this in mind, the NCAA has brought together two of the foremost cancer research foundations to San Antonio, host city for the 2010 Women’s Final Four. The result is a $100,000 research grant to the Cancer Therapy & Research Center and Rajeshwar Rao Tekmal, Ph.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the UT Health Science Center.
Dr. Tekmal received the ceremonial research grant check at a Dec. 9 news conference held in San Antonio. Presenting the check were representatives of the two foundations named for former North Carolina State basketball coaches Jim Valvano and Kay Yow, who both died of cancer: Nick Valvano, chief executive officer of The V Foundation for Cancer Research and Marsha Sharp, executive director of the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund®. The story and photos from the news conference are available at www.ncaa.com/finalfour.
“We are so proud of our collaboration with the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund and grateful to the NCAA for the opportunity to announce this grant in San Antonio,” said Nick Valvano. “This grant to support Dr. Tekmal’s novel breast cancer research is a great example of what donations to cancer research help to fund.”
In three days, Dr. Tekmal will present his research to the largest scientific meeting in the world devoted to breast cancer research. His oral presentation at 11 a.m. on Dec. 12 at the CTRC/AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium is #67 in Exhibit Hall D of the Convention Center. A one-page technical synopsis of his presentation, “Targeting Aldose Reductase: A Novel Strategy in Treating Endocrine Resistance Using Combination Therapy,” is attached.
“I am honored that The V Foundation for Cancer Research and Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund chose to support my research,” said Dr. Tekmal, principal investigator of this research grant. “I am trying to prevent the tragedy that Kay Yow faced—battling breast cancer that keeps coming back. Kay Yow died earlier this year after her third bout with breast cancer. Her death ended a spectacular career coaching college basketball — 700 career victories and head coach of the U.S. Olympic team that took home a gold medal in 1988.”
The new grant will fund development of a “master pill” that Dr. Tekmal hopes will delay resistance to hormone therapies or resensitize recurring resistant tumors — a new approach that allows anti-hormonal drugs to do their job once again. He’ll combine agents such as tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors that are often given to patients with early stages of breast cancer and those whose cancer has spread to other parts of the body after chemotherapy. The tumor’s growth is halted because these agents deprive the cancer of the estrogen it needs to grow. For women with certain types of breast cancer, taking tamoxifen after surgery for five years cuts in half the chances of the cancer coming back, according to the National Cancer Institute.
“Over time, however, the cancer becomes resistant to this approach and begins to grow,” explains Dr. Tekmal. “About 50 percent of patients develop resistance to tamoxifen over the course of three to five years. It appears the same is true also with aromatase inhibitors that deplete the supply of estrogen to tumor. The cancer will figure out another way to thrive in the absence of the estrogen.”
Dr. Tekmal’s approach to overcome this resistance is to combine drugs, which create “moving targets” for the cancer to pursue. He plans to use nanotechnology to deliver the drugs precisely to the cancer cells. Simply put, he hopes his approach can destroy the machinery the tumor creates in order to grow without the estrogen.
“We also hope to create a genetic profile capable of predicting how a treatment will work in a woman with breast cancer. It will enable physicians to choose the best treatment at the outset,” Dr. Tekmal said.
“The NCAA is continually looking for opportunities that will impact the host community for the Women’s Final Four, and being able to combine our efforts with that of The V Foundation for Cancer Research and the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund is a winning combination,” said Sue Donohoe, NCAA vice president for Division I Basketball. “Cancer has touched all of our lives in some capacity, and we are excited to see that the research grant money will be going to continued efforts to help eradicate breast cancer and to support the efforts of Dr. Tekmal and the CTRC.”
The Cancer Therapy & Research Center at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is one of the nation’s leading academic research and treatment centers, serving more than 4.4 million people in the high-growth corridor of Central and South Texas including Austin, San Antonio, Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley. CTRC is one of the elite cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center, and is one of the only three in Texas. A world leader in developing new drugs to treat cancer, the CTRC Institute for Drug Development is internationally recognized for conducting one of the largest oncology Phase I clinical drug programs in the world, and participates in the clinical and/or preclinical development of many of the cancer drugs approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. For more information, visit www.ctrc.net