McDonnell Awarded $600K Komen Grant

McDonnell Research Lab
Donald McDonnell, PhD
Donald McDonnell, PhD

Duke Cancer Institute breast cancer researcher Donald McDonnell, PhD, has received a $600,000 grant from national breast cancer foundation Susan G. Komen to study a new combination therapy for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer.

The grant is part of $14 million in new grants to be dispersed nationally this fiscal year by Komen — in keeping with the nonprofit's mission to end breast cancer through the funding of projects to better detect and treat metastatic breast cancer and research to eliminate disparities in breast cancer outcomes. Komen announced the grant awardees on June 30.

McDonnell is the Glaxo‐Wellcome Professor of Molecular Cancer Biology in the Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology and a professor in the Department of Medicine. He is also associate director for Translational Research at DCI and associate director of Basic Science Research in the DCI's Breast Cancer Disease Group.

McDonnell's project will assess the effectiveness of targeting the proteins AGR2 and LYPD3 as a new potential combination therapy for metastatic Estrogen Receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer. His goal is to find new therapeutic targets for patients with ER-positive metastatic breast cancers that are resistant to endocrine therapy. ER-positive breast cancer is the most common type of breast cancer.

McDonnell is a national Komen Scholar (named as such for knowledge, leadership, and contributions to breast cancer research) and also serves on the board of directors of Komen's local chapter — Susan G. Komen North Carolina Triangle to the Coast.

He has been the recipient of numerous and substantial breast cancer research grants, including from Susan G. Komen ($1.2 million to date for various projects, not including the new grant), the National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).

In 2020, McDonnell was one of two breast cancer researchers to receive Komen's Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction — the non-profit's highest scientific honor — for "his significant contributions to breast cancer research, which have been instrumental in advancing our understanding of estrogen receptor signaling in breast cancer."

This followed a $7 million-plus grant award given by the DOD Office of Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs for a four-year translational project (2018-2022) to develop strategies to improve the effectiveness of existing and emerging endocrine therapies taken to prevent breast cancer recurrence in ER-positive breast cancer.