Clemson Research Receives Grant to Study Breast Cancer Reconstruction

October 28, 2009

CLEMSON, SC – October 28, 2009 – The Avon Foundation for Women has awarded the Clemson University Institute for Biological Interfaces of Engineering a $195,000 grant to support research to develop new ways to improve reconstructive breast surgery using engineered tissue that contains anti-cancer properties.

“We’re working on an injectable cell-based biomaterial that will be designed to reduce tumor recurrence,” said Karen Burg, institute director and Hunter Endowed Chair of Bioengineering. “Our research is at the intersection of biology and engineering. We are particularly excited because it is the first time that the Avon Foundation for Women has funded this type of interdisciplinary research, and it is wonderful that they’ve recognized the potential of collaborative work.”

The project is focused on improving reconstructive surgery performed on breast tissue following a lumpectomy. Healthy cells from the patient would be combined with a degradable biomaterial that has anti-cancer properties. The tissue-biomaterial would be injected, following the lumpectomy, into the patient. Previous studies have shown the developing tissue fills the tissue defect as the material is gradually absorbed into the body.

Burg said the concept of an injectable biomaterial for breast tissue reconstruction is being tested in animal models and the anti-cancer biomaterial is being developed in a laboratory-engineered tissue system at the institute.

The grant was awarded to Burg and Clemson research assistant professor Brian Booth. The announcement of the grant was made in Charlotte, N.C., at the 2009 Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, which raised $2.3 million to advance access to care and finding a cure for breast cancer.

Located at Clemson University, the Institute for Biological Interfaces of Engineering is a South Carolina-based interdisciplinary research and educational unit integrating faculty member activities from the five Clemson University colleges. Its goal is the development of laboratory-engineered tissue systems that can be used to study new medical implants and disease processes or to develop new therapies and preventatives.