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TTUHSC El Paso Professor Receives $100,000 for Research on Potential Breast Cancer Treatment


EL PASO, TEXAS — The battle against breast cancer requires a multifaceted approach, where every form of support makes a significant impact.


Shrikanth S. Gadad, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Center of Emphasis in Cancer at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso, has been awarded a grant from the Edward N. and Margaret G. Marsh Foundation to support breast cancer research.


The $100,429 grant will help Dr. Gadad investigate a potential treatment that uses the immune system to fight triple-negative breast cancer. The Marsh grant is for one year.


Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer mortality in women and the primary cause of cancer death among Hispanic women, according to the National Cancer Institute. The Center of Emphasis in Cancer focuses on forms of the disease prevalent in our majority-Hispanic Borderplex, seeking new strategies for the prevention and treatment of the deadly disease.


El Paso County has a breast cancer incidence rate of 106 cases per 100,000 women, which is lower than Texas’ overall rate of 113 per 100,000 women. However, El Paso County’s breast cancer incidence rate trended upward over the past decade, according to NCI statistics tracked by Healthy Paso del Norte.


“Our community is 83% Hispanic, and triple-negative breast cancer, which is an aggressive form of breast cancer, affects younger women,” Dr. Gadad said. “Identifying novel therapeutic targets will help treat younger women in our community diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer.”


A significant number of breast cancer cases in Hispanic women are triple-negative breast cancers, so named because they test negative for two hormone receptors and a protein that affect the growth of cancer cells.


Triple-negative breast cancer is fast-spreading and often does not respond well to chemotherapy used for other types of invasive breast cancers. This leads to worse outcomes in patients diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer and is why Dr. Gadad and his research team are investigating new treatments based on immunotherapy. 


A relatively new field, immunotherapy uses a person’s immune system to find and destroy cancer cells. It may have an advantage over chemotherapy, which uses powerful, DNA-damaging drugs to kill fast-

growing cancer cells. However, chemotherapy sometimes kills healthy cells.


Dr. Gadad’s research will focus on a tumor-specific antigen that holds promise as a therapeutic target for triple-negative breast cancer. A tumor antigen is a substance produced by cancer cells that triggers a person’s immune system to find and eradicate cancer cells.


“We can develop vaccines against immunogenic proteins, which have success treating many infectious diseases,” Dr. Gadad said. “Our project focuses on identifying these immunogenic proteins specific to triple-negative breast cancer among Hispanic women and developing tumor vaccines.”


The Edward N. and Margaret G. Marsh Foundation was established under the last will and testament of El Paso resident Edward Norton Marsh, who passed away in 1982. The foundation, which primarily supports El Paso-based organizations, provides funding for charitable, scientific, literary and educational purposes, with special attention to medical research.


The Marsh Foundation has collaborated with TTUHSC El Paso twice before.


In 2019, Munmun Chattopadhyay, M.Sc, Ph.D., an associate professor of diabetes and metabolism at TTUHSC El Paso's Center of Emphasis in Diabetes and Metabolism, received a grant of $100,429 from the Marsh Foundation to support her research on gastroparesis. Gastroparesis is a rare but severe digestive disorder that results in the stomach being unable to empty food, leading to dehydration from vomiting, malnutrition, and increased blood sugar levels that can exacerbate diabetes.


In 2021, the Marsh Foundation granted Dr. Gadad $42,000 to examine the correlation between depression and suicide among Hispanics and the immune system's inflammatory response.



 

ABOUT TEXAS TECH UNIVERSITY HEALTH SCIENCES CENTER EL PASO

TTUHSC El Paso is the only health sciences center on the U.S.-Mexico border and serves 108 counties in West Texas that have been historically underserved. It’s a designated Title V Hispanic-Serving Institution, preparing the next generation of health care heroes, 48% of whom identify as Hispanic and are often first-generation students.


Established as an independent university in the Texas Tech University System in 2013, TTUHSC El Paso is celebrating 10 years as a proudly diverse and uniquely innovative destination for education and research. According to a 2022 analysis, TTUHSC El Paso contributes $634.4 million annually to our Borderplex region’s economy.


With a mission of eliminating health care barriers and creating life-changing educational opportunities for Borderplex residents, TTUHSC El Paso has graduated over 2,000 doctors, nurses and researchers over the past decade, and will add dentists to its alumni beginning in 2025. For more information, visit ttuhscepimpact.org.


 

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