Extraordinary Science – Nancy Krucher Awarded NIH Grant

  Nancy Krutcher

Breast cancer is a major health concern that is estimated to affect one in eight American women. Professor Nancy Krucher, Biology and Health Sciences, has been working for 19 years on breast, ovarian, and colon cancer cells, studying the biochemical pathways by which these cells grow and/or die.

In March, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded Krucher a $360,000 grant for her work in breast cancer research. The three-year grant will support a project that uses 3D models of breast cancer tumors to study a mechanism to induce tumor cell death.

Dr. Krucher told us about her important work.

What is the mechanism that induces tumor cell death and how does it work?

In 2008, my Pace University students and I developed a method to stimulate cancer cells growing in cell cultures to commit suicide, a process which is called apoptosis, by activating a gene that is dysfunctional in cancer cells. The gene, Retinoblastoma (Rb), is dysfunctional in breast and many other cancer types.

The current award from the NIH allows us to further explore this treatment strategy in breast cancer cells grown in 3D, which more closely recapitulates the physiological structure of a tumor.

How do students participate in the research? What exactly do they do?

My research students will spend one to two years working alongside me on this research project by learning the techniques for growing the breast cancer tumors, followed by the molecular analysis and biochemistry of the 3D tumors in our experiments.

How does this approach advance the fight against cancer?

If the methods cause cells death in this tumor model, this would be evidence that it may work in animals, which could mean it might be useful in the clinical setting.

What does it mean to have your work recognized and supported by the NIH?

This work would not be possible at Pace without the grant from the National Cancer Institute of the NIH. It allows Pace students to be exposed to medically-relevant research, and introduces them to a career as a research scientist. My work with mentoring students in the research laboratory has been the highlight of my career as a professor.