An Annapolis group that raises money for research of metastatic breast cancer has awarded $75,000 in grants to two professors.

METAvivor Research and Support said today it has awarded a $50,000 research grant to Alana Welm at the University of Utah and a $25,000 grant to Andrea Mastro at Penn State University.

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The awards coincide with the kick-off of METAvivor's "30% for 30% Campaign." The organization believes 30 percent of breast cancer research dollars should go to metastatic breast cancer because 30 percent of women with the disease metastasize, which is when the cancer spreads to other organs in the body.

Metastatic breast cancer research currently receives about 2 percent of funds.

Welm and a group of researchers have generated new mouse models for metastatic breast cancer research. Tumors taken directly from patients have been grafted into mouse mammary glands.

The grant will allow Welm and her team to "determine whether tumor grafts are reliable predictors of a tumor's actual response to therapy in the patient." If successful, these mouse models can potentially be used to select treatment for individual patients.

Mastro has developed a bone-like matrix in a petri dish so that researchers will now be able to study the impact of the bone microenvironment molecules on breast cancer cell metastasis.

Tumor cells stay dormant for months to years before they reactivate and cause metastatic growth in a secondary organ such as bone. One of the hurdles in metastatic breast cancer research has been the lack of proper tools to study these dormant tumors in the petri dish and control their reactivation.

The grant will allow Mastro and her team to use the bone–like matrix to test the role that various factors play in the metastatic breast cancer cell's escape from dormancy and then its growth in the bone. These grants are the second and third metastatic breast cancer research grants to be awarded by METAvivor Research and Support.

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