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PVLSI opens new Breast Cancer Research Center

The Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute (PVLSI) announced Monday that it has received a grant of $1.5 million from the cancer research organization Rays of Hope Walk Toward the Cure of Breast Cancer to establish a new Springfield center for breast cancer research.

The PVLSI, an independent non-profit devoted to biomedical research, which was established nine years ago through a partnership between the University of Massachusetts and Springfield’s Baystate Medical Center, will receive the grant over a five-year period beginning this year, with the funding going towards improving and broadening ongoing breast cancer research there, according to a Monday UMass News Office release.

According to the release, the funding will in part go towards expanding the Institute’s scope of research, as it will use new technology at its disposal to “generate, capture and analyze data on a much larger scale,” according to the release.

Proceeds from Rays of Hope, a breast cancer walk organized by the Baystate Health Foundation, will be the basis of the award’s funding pool. In the release, Director of the Baystate Foundation’s annual fund and events Carol Baribeau said the donation illustrates the walk’s continued importance and positive impact on Springfield and the Pioneer Valley.

“The naming of this center is yet another indication of the enduring legacy that Rays of Hope and all its participants have created in our community,” she said. “On the basis of their own experience, our Rays of Hope walkers are creating hope for future generations by supporting research that could take us much closer to a cure for the disease.”

According to the National Cancer Center, operated by the National Institute of Health (NIH), breast cancer will affect 12.2 percent of American women over the course of their lives. The release states that “a major research goal of the new center is examining links between obesity and breast cancer.”

Research has found that “obesity, hypertension and early indications of diabetes can increase breast cancer risk,” according to the Monday release.

In the release, UMass molecular medicine and advanced genetics professor and PVLSI director Joseph Jerry said research has only uncovered a slim amount of what there is to know about potential links between obesity and breast cancer, and that this new funding may help fill in some gaps.

“We are just beginning to unlock clues as to whether obesity and breast cancer may be linked, and what those links could mean for prevention, diagnosis and management of the disease,” he said. “With this more robust support to our continuing research, we are provided significantly improved tools for answering important questions about the cellular and metabolic processes that cause lesions and tumors to develop.”

The center hopes to combine some of the strengths of Baystate’s areas of expertise like oncology, endocrinology and pathology with UMass’ well-regarded programs in polymer sciences and bio-epidemiology, according to the release, aiming to create a multidimensional program affording scientists the ability “ to approach the complex and intertwined biological processes behind diseases like obesity, diabetes and breast cancer in an integrated and disease-focused fashion.”

The director of Baystate’s Comprehensive Breast Cancer Center, Dr. Grace Makari-Judson, said in the release that this newly-strengthened pairing will help to “bring direct benefit to breast cancer patients here in western New England.”

Baribeau of the Baystate Foundation said in the release that she feels expanding the Institute’s base and scope will also contribute to community improvement efforts in Springfield.

“Keeping these dollars here in western Massachusetts, supporting economic and scientific development in the North End of Springfield, and supporting the type of innovative research going on at PVLSI, is really the worthiest of outcomes of our fundraising efforts,” she said.

This year’s Rays of Hope Walk Toward the Cure of Breast Cancer will be held Oct. 23 in Springfield and Greenfield, with a Run Toward the Cure 8K race also slated for Oct. 23 in Springfield.

-Collegian News Staff


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