JoEllen Welsh, Ph.D., awarded $1.7M NIH-NCI grant to study the link between vitamin D and hyaluronic acid (HA) signaling in triple negative breast cancer (TNBC)

JoEllen Welsh, Ph.D., has been awarded a National Institutes of Health-National Cancer Institute (NIH-NCI) grant of up to $1,764,521 to conduct studies to examine the independent and interactive effects of vitamin D and three other natural products (4-methylumberellifone [4MU], sulfoquinovose [SQ] and glucosamine) on HA metabolism and CD44 signaling in TNBC mouse models in vitro and in vivo. Breast cancer is a heterogeneous disease with at least 4 major molecularly defined sub-types. Of the >200,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer annually, between  15-25% are diagnosed with "triple negative" breast cancer (TNBC) which lack estrogen progesterone receptors and do not exhibit amplification of Her2. The project will test the hypothesis that TNBCs are dependent on HAS2-generated HA to drive CD44 mediated survival signaling. Dr. Welsh's preliminary data strongly suggests that vitamin D suppression of HAS2 activity and HA synthesis represents a feasible approach  for interrupting CD44 signaling in TNBC cells. Dr. Welsh is an Empire Innovations Professor at the University at Albany Cancer Research Center with appointments in the Departments of Biomedical Sciences and Environmental Health Sciences. Her research team proposes that measuring biochemical measures of HA metabolism could become a useful screen to identify breast cancer patients who are most likely to respond to these interventions. Completing this project will provide important translational information regarding the use of these agents in women living with TNBC.

To learn more about her current research projects, please click here.