Kelly Cares Funds Cancer Research Projects


In the past 24 hours, 21,599 families lost a loved one to cancer. Cancer can strike anyone, impacting all ages, ethnicities, classes, and genders. Unless new, more effective detection and treatment options are developed, researchers estimate that by 2030, more than 11 million people will die from cancer.

The Harper Cancer Research Institute, the University of Notre Dame's primary entity for cancer research since 2011, features a team of over 60 faculty researchers, numerous students, and other research specialists from around the academy. The Kelly Cares Foundation is proud to partner with Harper Cancer Research Institute in the fight against cancer.

The Kelly Cares Foundation currently funds three cancer research projects at Harper Cancer Research Institute. 


    Chemotherapeutics are, by design, toxic compounds that kill cancer cells.  However, as they travel through the body they can have an effect on other cells resulting in several side effects that are difficult to endure.  Additionally, some compounds that are extremely effective in killing cancer cells are too toxic for patients to take. Much of this is due to the nonspecific interaction of these drugs.  Imagine if chemotherapy was encapsulated and targeted specifically to cancer cells. The effectiveness of the drugs would increase and the side effects would decrease. That is exactly what Basar has been able to accomplish.  He has been able to create liposomal nanoparticles that can deliver anticancer compounds directly to the tumor and funding from the Kelly Cares Foundation is one of the reasons this was possible.


    Early detection by mammography is the gold standard in breast cancer screening.  Women aged 60-69 who receive a mammogram on a regular basis have a 33% lower risk of dying from breast cancer.  Unfortunately, for women with dense breast tissue, the accuracy of mammography can be decreased by up to three-fold.  Additionally, elevated breast tissue density can result in a six-fold increase in a womanís risk of breast cancer. Ryan and Tracy decided to tackle this issue.  Ryan developed gold nanoprobes that specifically targeting the tumor. Tracy created a mouse model for breast cancer in breasts with dense breast tissue. Together, they were able to clearly show that molecular imaging using these probes consistently and accurately diagnosed breast cancer in dense breast tissue.

    However, mouse models have obvious clinical limitations.  Through funding from the Kelly Cares Foundation, a phantom tissue that mimicked human breast tissue was created.  This phantom is currently being used in the mammography equipment at Saint Josephís Health System to determine if the specific properties the nanoprobes need to have in order to be effective in humans.


    When breast cancer is caught early, women have a 99% chance of being alive in 5 years.  However, when it is caught late and has metastasized to other parts of the body, such as bone, that percentage drops to 27%.  While researchers have created effective ways of studying breast cancer, there are not many models for studying breast cancer metastasis.  Laurie combined her expertise in metastasis with Glenís knowledge of engineering to create a first of its kind bone bioreactor that allows for the studying of breast cancer metastasis to the bone.  This model accurately recreates phenomena such as metastatic dormancy and is giving researchers a new window into how metastatic breast cells interact with bone cells. Understanding this relationship is the key to stopping breast cancer metastasis.


Posted on May 05, 2018