NCI, Avon Foundation awards breast-cancer grants totaling $1 million to Lehman, Rossing

Dr. Constance Lehman, a physician at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, and Dr. Mary Anne Rossing, associate director of the Public Health Sciences Division, recently received two-year grants for breast-cancer research from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Avon Foundation. Dr. Anne McTiernan, a member of the PHS Division and director of the center's Prevention Center, is a co-investigator and the scientific leader of Rossing's study.

The funding for the two studies, totaling nearly $1 million, comes from the "Progress for Patients" award program, a multiyear, public-private partnership of the Avon Foundation and NCI.

Lehman, who is also an associate professor of radiology at UW and director of breast imaging at UW Medical Center, is studying whether computer-aided image management and diagnosis can improve radiologists' accuracy and efficiency in interpreting magnetic resonance (MR) images. Of all imaging tools that complement mammography, MR is the most promising because of its high sensitivity in detecting breast cancer. Presently, barriers such as high cost and increased radiologist time in evaluating the MR images impede more widespread use of MR imaging. It is hoped that computer assistance will improve the efficiency of using MR. Lehman's study is an intercenter collaboration with the University of California, San Francisco.

Rossing and McTiernan's project will evaluate the effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, on mammographic breast density. Breast density may predict risk of breast cancer development and is associated with mammographic-screening sensitivity. Aspirin's influence on breast density will be measured in a randomized trial of 144 pre- and post-menopausal women. This preliminary study may lead to a future clinical trial testing the effects of NSAIDs on breast-cancer incidence.

Other co-investigators include Drs. Jeannette Bigler, Diana Buist, John Potter, Nicole Urban, C.Y. Wang and Emily White. The aspirin study is funded as a supplement to the Pacific Ovarian Cancer Research Consortium, a Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) supported by a five-year grant from NCI. Dr. Nicole Urban is SPORE's scientific director.

Past Avon support includes two gifts from the Avon Foundation, including $2.5 million for breast-cancer research that includes an initiative in breast-cancer immunotherapy and $1.25 million for investigation of the immune response to breast cancer and to develop immune-based therapies.

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