In Brief

$450K Grant for Breast Cancer Research

Cell biologist Ana Soto receives funding from the Avon Foundation for Women
June 28, 2013

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Breast cancer researcher Ana Soto—who, together with Carlos Sonnenschein, was the first to sound the alarm about the presence of estrogen-mimicking compounds in household plastics—has been awarded a $450,000 grant from the Avon Foundation for Women. The funding will support their work investigating the role of natural hormones and environmental chemicals in the development of breast cancer.

For more than two decades, Soto and Sonnenschein, both professors in the Department of Anatomy and Cellular Biology, have been studying how sex hormones regulate cell proliferation and how environmental contaminants may interfere with those processes. Currently, they study cancer’s origins using three-dimensional tissue models that more accurately represent the structure of tissues and organs where cancers arise.

Nicole Acevedo, a postdoctoral researcher in Ana Soto’s lab, accepting the award on Soto’s behalfSoto and Sonnenschein are proponents of the tissue organization field theory (TOFT), which views cancer as a tissue-based disease that occurs when normal interactions among tissues are disrupted. This theory stands in contrast to the prevalent idea that cancer is a cell-based disease that arises when genetic mutations in a single cell switch on inappropriate cell proliferation. The pair proposed TOFT in the late 1990s. They laid out the evidence for the theory from their lab and others’ in their book The Society of Cells (Taylor & Francis).

The Avon Foundation presented the grant following the annual Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in Boston on May 19. Nearly $2 million was awarded to nine local research organizations, including the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Nicole Acevedo, a postdoctoral researcher in Soto’s lab, accepted the award on Soto’s behalf.