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Breast cancer researcher honored (2/17/98)

Phang-Lang Chen, PhD, assistant professor of molecular medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, is one of the recently announced 1997 recipients of a Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation grant. Dr. Chen's two-year grant began January 1, 1998.

"The incidence of breast cancer is very high," says Dr. Chen. According to the latest statistics, almost 50,000 women die from breast cancer every year in the United States. "Investigators have been trying to isolate the gene that causes breast cancer (BRCA 1/2). It has been known for a long time that when a DNA strand is damaged it must be repaired correctly or it will cause mutations that can lead to cancer formation. In families carrying mutations in BRCA genes, females and, in some cases, males are prone to breast cancer."

Most DNA strands in the body repair themselves but there are times when the body's automatic repair kit is faulty.

"In our laboratory, we are investigating how the BRCA genes may regulate DNA repair through interaction with RAD51, a human protein involved in recombination of DNA strands," said Dr. Chen, whose research will provide data that can be translated and eventually used to treat patients.

Other Health Science Center researchers who have received Susan G. Komen Foundation awards include Charles K. Osborne, MD, professor of medicine and A.B. Alexander Chair, and postdoctoral fellows in the department. Dr. Osborne received the Komen Award for Scientific Distinction in 1994 and again, in 1995, as well as the Brinker International Award for Breast Cancer Research.

For 15 years, the National Grants Program of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation has provided funding for basic and clinical breast cancer research and for innovative projects in the areas of breast cancer education, screening and treatment. The grants honor Susan G. Komen, who died of the disease when she was 36.

The Komen Foundation, established in 1982, is a national organization with a network of volunteers working through local chapters to eradicate breast cancer. By the end of 1997, the Komen Foundation and its affiliates had raised in excess of $90 million to fight this disease.

Contact: Jan Elkins, (210) 567-2570