Barry award will advance breast cancer research efforts

By Paula Van Brocklin, Office of the Vice President for Research

Breast cancer patients with an especially virulent tumor subtype – called HER2+ — have poor prognosis for long-term survival. Iowa State University researcher Cathy Miller hopes to change that outlook, and now she has some extra funds to help accomplish her goal.

Miller, associate professor and interim assistant dean for graduate studies and research training in the department of veterinary microbiology and preventive medicine, has been awarded the 2017 Margaret B. Barry Cancer Research Award. She will receive $120,000 over two years.

Miller’s proposal, “Mammalian Orthoreovirus Therapy and Vaccine Development Against HERT+ Breast Cancer,” examines the ability of the mammalian orthoreovirus (MRV) — a virus that targets and kills cancerous cells without harming healthy ones — to destroy and modulate the cell growth survival pathways of HER2+ breast cancers, both with and without Herceptin therapy. Herceptin is a single, cloned antibody that binds to HER2+, rendering it inactive on the surface of cells.

Miller’s second aim is to develop and test a recombined form of MRV that takes pieces of the HER2 protein to create a new immunotherapy, or vaccine, to combat this form of breast cancer.

“I am thrilled by the number of deserving proposals we received for the Barry Cancer Research Award this year,” said James Reecy, associate vice president for research. “I look forward to the research advancements Cathy and her team make as they work toward eradicating this aggressive form of breast cancer.”

The biennial Barry Cancer Research Award was established through an estate gift from Margaret Barry, who wanted the funds used to further cancer research. Projects must come from the College of Veterinary Medicine, though collaborative works with the college and other areas of the university will be considered. Funding is up to $120,000 over two years.

Application deadline for the 2019 Barry award is Nov. 15, 2019.