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Avon Foundation Supports Siteman Breast Cancer Researchers 

Washington University School of Medicine's Rodrigo Goncalves, MD (left), a postdoctoral fellow, and Matthew Ellis, MB, BChir, PhD, chief of breast oncology, attended the Avon grant announcement event June 2 in Chicago.

June 12, 2013 – The Avon Foundation for
Women has awarded a $150,000 grant to Washington University researchers at the Siteman Cancer Center.

The funding will help scientists standardize a test that predicts outcomes for women with estrogen-positive breast cancer. The lower the measurement, called a PEPI (preoperative endocrine prognostic index) score, the less
likely patients with early-stage breast tumors
will experience a recurrence and the more likely they can safely avoid chemotherapy after surgery.

The research could lead to several clinical trials in the U.S. and Brazil that assign treatment based on a patient's PEPI score.

"These trials will evaluate whether aggressive chemotherapy is necessary to treat tumors that respond well to endocrine treatment even when they are relatively large at diagnosis," said grant recipient Matthew Ellis, MB, BChir, PhD, chief of breast oncology at the School of Medicine.

The PEPI score takes into account four factors present after presurgical anti-estrogen therapy to estimate risk of relapse and survival rates:

  • the size of the breast tumor;
  • whether cancer is present in nearby lymph nodes;
  • how fast tumor cells are multiplying; and
  • whether tumors lose their estrogen receptors.

The grant was announced June 2 at the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in Chicago. Ellis, who attended the announcement event, was in Chicago to discuss breast cancer genomics at the annual meeting of the Association of American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

Rodrigo Goncalves, MD, a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Medicine, will work with Ellis to conduct the research.

"The Avon Foundation grant allows us to work on behalf of breast cancer patients in areas with limited resources," he said. "This is extremely important to women and their families in Brazil and around the world."

Separately, the Avon Foundation announced eight other grants made through its Breast Health Outreach Program, including one to The Breakfast Club Inc., a breast cancer support group based in Florissant, Mo.