Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey Researchers Awarded $240K to Explore Breast Cancer Treatment Implications in Gene Fusion Study

January 28, 2014

Kim M. Hirshfield, MD, PhD

New Brunswick, N.J. – The Breast Cancer Research Foundation has awarded a pair of investigators at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey a one-year, $240,000 grant to examine treatment implications for a genetic variation found in a quarter of Caucasians and in a small percentage of Caucasian breast cancer patients.

Arnold J. Levine, PhD, a resident member at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey and professor of pediatrics and biochemistry at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; and Kim M. Hirshfield, MD, PhD, a medical oncologist at the Cancer Institute and assistant professor of medicine at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, are building on previous research that led to the identification of a new gene product as a result of two cancer-causing genes being fused together.

Drs. Levine and Hirshfield are examining the pairing of the KANSL1 and ARL17A genes.  KANSL1 is part of a protein complex that regulates tumor suppression function and DNA repair proteins involved in cancer formation and cancer cell behavior.  ARL17A is involved in movement of proteins within a cell and in turn, affects cell function.

When the two genes are combined, the resulting fusion gene presents itself as a genetic variation in the human genome in one quarter of Caucasian populations. In particular, the gene product was detected in 12 percent of breast cancers in this group.  The new fusion gene’s impact on protein activity further sheds light on why some cancers – including breast – have difficulty maintaining the integrity of their DNA.  As a result, two sets of drugs were identified that could be useful in the treatment of cancers with the fusion variation.  The grant will support laboratory study of these agents and their impact on targeted therapy.

The award period runs through October 1.

About Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey ( is the state’s first and only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. As part of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, the Cancer Institute of New Jersey is dedicated to improving the detection, treatment and care of patients with cancer, and to serving as an education resource for cancer prevention. Physician-scientists at the Cancer Institute engage in translational research, transforming their laboratory discoveries into clinical practice, quite literally bringing research to life.  To make a tax-deductible gift to support the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, call 732-235-8614 or visit Follow us on Facebook at

The Cancer Institute of New Jersey Network is comprised of hospitals throughout the state and provides the highest quality cancer care and rapid dissemination of important discoveries into the community. Flagship Hospital: Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. System Partner: Meridian Health (Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Ocean Medical Center, Riverview Medical Center, Southern Ocean Medical Center, and Bayshore Community Hospital). Major Clinical Research

Affiliate Hospitals: Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Morristown Medical Center, Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Overlook Medical Center, and Cooper University Hospital. Affiliate Hospitals: CentraState Healthcare System, JFK Medical Center, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton (CINJ Hamilton), Shore Medical Center, Somerset Medical Center, The University Hospital/Rutgers New Jersey Medical School*, and University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro. *Academic Affiliate

About The Breast Cancer Research Foundation®
The Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) advances the world's most promising research to eradicate breast cancer in our lifetime. Founded by Evelyn H. Lauder in 1993, BCRF has raised more than $465 million to fuel discoveries in tumor biology, genetics, prevention, treatment, survivorship and metastasis. This year, they invested $45 million in the work of more than 200 researchers at leading medical institutions across six continents. By spending 91 cents of every dollar on research and public awareness, BCRF remains one of the nation's most fiscally responsible charities. They are the only breast cancer organization with an "A+" from CharityWatch and have been awarded a four-star rating from Charity Navigator 11 times since 2002. Learn more at


Michele Fisher


precision medicine at Rutgers Cancer Institute







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