Notre Dame researchers awarded grants to study treatments for breast cancer

Author: Deanna Csomo Ferrell

Two researchers at the University of Notre Dame have received grants for breast cancer research through the Breast Cancer Alliance (BCA), which has a mission to improve survival rates and quality of life for those impacted by breast cancer.

Xin Lu Vert
Xin Lu

Xin Lu, the John M. and Mary Jo Boler Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, received a $100,000 Exceptional Project Grant. According to BCA, the grant recognizes creative, unique, and innovative research.

Lu’s project, “Off-the-shelf” Novel Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) NK Cell Therapy for Metastatic TNBC,” is exploring one of the most recent advances in the field of cancer immunotherapy, the CAR-NK therapy. This cell-based immunotherapy has shown promise for treating certain types of leukemia and may work for triple-negative negative breast cancer, which is notoriously difficult to treat.

“We propose to adapt this ‘live drug’ therapy to treating patients with lethal breast cancer, and this BCA-supported project will generate critical preclinical data about the potential benefit and risk of this therapy,’ Lu said.

In his second grant year, Thomas O’Sullivan, assistant professor of electrical engineering, is continuing his work from a Young Investigator Grant through the Breast Cancer Alliance for his research project, “Multifunctional microimplants for sensing and delivery of response-guided treatment in breast cancer.” His grant award was $125,000 in 2020.

His work in 2020 focused on “smart” breast clips. Breast clips are injectable, biologically safe markers placed in the body during a biopsy. They can be seen on post-biopsy mammograms to more quickly identify the affected tissue. For this project, O’Sullivan’s lab is developing wireless, low-power sensors the same size as traditional breast clips that can continuously monitor the composition of the tumor and provide light-activated treatment.

Thomas O Sullivan
Thomas O'Sullivan

Both Lu and O’Sullivan are affiliated with Notre Dame’s Harper Cancer Research Institute and the Berthiaume Institute for Precision Health. Lu is also affiliated with the Boler-Parseghian Center for Rare and Neglected Diseases at Notre Dame and a full member of Indiana University Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center

“I feel extremely honored and fortunate to receive the Exceptional Project Grant from Breast Cancer Alliance (BCA). We strive to perform innovative research with the goal to benefit breast cancer patients, and the support from BCA is crucial for us to pursue this CAR-NK immunotherapy project,” Lu said. “Therefore, we deeply appreciate the insight and trust from BCA.”


Originally published by Deanna Csomo Ferrell at on February 24, 2022.