Clemson's Burg brings 'Era of Hope' to breast cancer research

02/22/05

CLEMSON -- Bioengineer Karen Burg is one of eight recipients of the Era of Hope Scholar Award -- the U.S. Department of Defense's acknowledgement that the Clemson University bioengineer is a rising star among breast cancer researchers whose "creative, high-risk research . . . may ultimately lead to the eradication of breast cancer."

Through the Era of Hope program, Burg is expanding her research from the re-growth of breast tissue lost to lumpectomy or mastectomy to the growth of breast tissue as a scientific test bed. This work could lead to the faster development of drug-based treatments and prevention methods, which ultimately could save thousands of lives.

"This research helps address a problem that has always been noted in the literature: lack of suitable three-dimensional tissue culture models," Burg said. "Until now, we've been largely limited by two-dimensional models, which don't accurately reflect cell behavior in the human body."

A three-dimensional test bed comprised of human cells will help researchers: decipher cell-to-cell communication, discern if drugs pose serious side effects to healthy cells and develop treatments, getting them to the market and to patients faster.

Statistically, one in seven women will get breast cancer in her lifetime. In 2004 alone, it was predicted that 215,990 women would be diagnosed with the disease -- 40,110 would die from it.

Working with Burg on this project from Clemson are Dennis Smith in chemistry, Bruce Gao in bioengineering and Steve Ellis in animal and veterinary science as well as Didier Dreau, a cancer biologist at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, David Pearlstone, a surgical oncologist at Palmetto State Surgical Associates in Greenville and Mina Bissell, a cell biologist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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