Dec. 9, 2009

2010 Women's Final Four Press Conference Photo Gallery

NCAA News Release

SAN ANTONIO (Dec. 9, 2009) -- Leaving a lasting legacy in the host city for the Women's Final Four is an annual goal of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). With this in mind, the NCAA has brought together two of the foremost cancer research foundations to San Antonio, host city for the 2010 Women's Final Four. The result is a $100,000 research grant to the Cancer Therapy & Research Center and Rajeshwar Rao Tekmal, Ph.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the UT Health Science Center. Dr. Tekmal received the ceremonial research grant check at a Dec. 9 news conference held in San Antonio. Presenting the check were representatives of the two foundations named for former North Carolina State basketball coaches Jim Valvano and Kay Yow, who both died of cancer: Nick Valvano, chief executive officer of The V Foundation for Cancer Research and Marsha Sharp, executive director of the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund®. The story and photos from the news conference are available at www.ncaa.com/finalfour.

"We are so proud of our collaboration with the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund and grateful to the NCAA for the opportunity to announce this grant in San Antonio," said Nick Valvano. "This grant to support Dr. Tekmal's novel breast cancer research is a great example of what donations to cancer research help to fund."

In three days, Dr. Tekmal will present his research to the largest scientific meeting in the world devoted to breast cancer research. His oral presentation at 11 a.m. on Dec. 12 at the CTRC/AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium is #67 in Exhibit Hall D of the Convention Center. A one-page technical synopsis of his presentation, "Targeting Aldose Reductase: A Novel Strategy in Treating Endocrine Resistance Using Combination Therapy," is below.

"I am honored that The V Foundation for Cancer Research and Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund chose to support my research," said Dr. Tekmal, principal investigator of this research grant. "I am trying to prevent the tragedy that Kay Yow faced--battling breast cancer that keeps coming back. Kay Yow died earlier this year after her third bout with breast cancer. Her death ended a spectacular career coaching college basketball -- 700 career victories and head coach of the U.S. Olympic team that took home a gold medal in 1988."

The new grant will fund development of a "master pill" that Dr. Tekmal hopes will delay resistance to hormone therapies or resensitize recurring resistant tumors -- a new approach that allows anti-hormonal drugs to do their job once again. He'll combine agents such as tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors that are often given to patients with early stages of breast cancer and those whose cancer has spread to other parts of the body after chemotherapy. The tumor's growth is halted because these agents deprive the cancer of the estrogen it needs to grow. For women with certain types of breast cancer, taking tamoxifen after surgery for five years cuts in half the chances of the cancer coming back, according to the National Cancer Institute.

"Over time, however, the cancer becomes resistant to this approach and begins to grow," explains Dr. Tekmal. "About 50 percent of patients develop resistance to tamoxifen over the course of three to five years. It appears the same is true also with aromatase inhibitors that deplete the supply of estrogen to tumor. The cancer will figure out another way to thrive in the absence of the estrogen."

Dr. Tekmal's approach to overcome this resistance is to combine drugs, which create "moving targets" for the cancer to pursue. He plans to use nanotechnology to deliver the drugs precisely to the cancer cells. Simply put, he hopes his approach can destroy the machinery the tumor creates in order to grow without the estrogen.

"We also hope to create a genetic profile capable of predicting how a treatment will work in a woman withbreast cancer. It will enable physicians to choose the best treatment at the outset," Dr. Tekmal said.

"The NCAA is continually looking for opportunities that will impact the host community for the Women's Final Four, and being able to combine our efforts with that of The V Foundation for Cancer Research and the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund is a winning combination," said Sue Donohoe, NCAA vice president for Division I Basketball. "Cancer has touched all of our lives in some capacity, and we are excited to see that the research grant money will be going to continued efforts to help eradicate breast cancer and to support the efforts of Dr. Tekmal and the CTRC."

The Cancer Therapy & Research Center at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is one of the nation's leading academic research and treatment centers, serving more than 4.4 million people in the high-growth corridor of Central and South Texas including Austin, San Antonio, Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley. CTRC is one of the elite cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center, and is one of the only three in Texas. A world leader in developing new drugs to treat cancer, the CTRC Institute for Drug Development is internationally recognized for conducting one of the largest oncology Phase I clinical drug programs in the world, and participates in the clinical and/or preclinical development of many of the cancer drugs approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. For more information, visit our Web site at www.ctrc.net

About the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund
The Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund® is a 501 c(3) charitable organization committed to being a part of finding an answer in the fight against women's cancers through raising money for scientific research, assisting the underserved and unifying people for a common cause. Donations can be made at www.JimmyV.org or by calling 1-800-4JimmyV. All donations are tax deductible. For more information, visit www.wbca.org/kayyowwbcacancerfund.asp.

About The V Foundation
The V Foundation is a charitable organization dedicated to saving lives by helping to find a cure for cancer. The Foundation seeks to make a difference by generating broad-based support for cancer research and by creating an urgent awareness among all Americans of the importance of the war against cancer. The V Foundation performs these dual roles through advocacy, education, fundraising and philanthropy.

About the WBCA
Founded in 1981, the WBCA promotes women's basketball by unifying coaches at all levels to develop a reputable identity for the sport and to foster and promote the development of the game as a sport for women and girls. For additional information about the WBCA, please visit wbca.org.

About the NCAA and Division I Women's Basketball
The NCAA is a membership-led nonprofit association of colleges and universities committed to supporting academic and athletic opportunities for more than 400,000 student-athletes at more than 1,000 member colleges and universities. Each year, more than 54,000 student-athletes compete in NCAA championships in Divisions I, II and III sports. Visit www.ncaa.org and www.ncaa.com for more details about the Association, its goals, members and corporate partnerships that help support programs for student-athletes.

NCAA women's basketball is characterized by strong fundamentals, high quality of play, sportsmanship, role model student-athletes and family oriented entertainment.

About the San Antonio Local Organizing Committee
The San Antonio Local Organizing Committee for the 2010 NCAA Women's Final Four is a partnership between San Antonio Sports, the area's nonprofit sports commission, the City of San Antonio and the University of Texas at San Antonio, the Championship's host institution. SALOC is chaired by former Bexar County judge, Cyndi Taylor Krier. Jenny Carnes serves as executive director. Information about SALOC contributor and suite ticket packages may be found at http://www.sanantoniosports.org/womensff2010.htm.


Technical Summary prepared by the American Association for Cancer Research

Targeting Aldose Reductase: A Novel Strategy in Treating Endocrine Resistance Using Combination Therapy
Researchers have found that treating estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer tumors with a combination of fidarestat (an inhibitor of aldose reductase enzyme) and letrozole (an aromatase inhibitor) could delay or stop tumor resistance to endocrine therapy, according to data presented at the CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

"Single agents are less effective," said Rajeshwar Rao Tekmal, Ph.D., professor in obstetrics and gynecology at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. "Many tumors develop resistance, so this combination approach could prolong that window when endocrine therapy is effective."

About two-thirds of breast cancer tumors initially are hormone sensitive or ER+, and therefore respond well to endocrine therapy.

However, close to half of those tumors develop resistance to endocrine therapy, said Dr. Tekmal.

In this pre-clinical study, researchers treated ER+ tumors already resistant to letrozole with both letrozole and fidarestat. As an inhibitor of aldose reductase enzyme, fidarestat blocks the metabolism of glucose in cancer cells.

Together, the combination effectively re-sensitized the cells to letrozole, allowing for effective endocrine therapy and more cell death.

Researchers believe that increased glucose metabolism (polyol accumulation) contributes to oxidative stress which, in turn, could alter intracellular signalling by affecting the regulation of protein kinases cascade that are known to be involved in therapy resistance. Blocking the path of glucose metabolism may result in alteration of intracellular signaling and block the production of inflammatory cytokines that play an important role in tumor growth. This may help to restore sensitivity to endocrine therapies, or it may stop or delay the development of resistance to endocrine therapies in the first place.

While this is a pre-clinical study, Dr. Tekmal believes it could lead to future drug treatments that will make endocrine therapy more effective for longer periods of time.

"This is a very promising study showing that combination treatments seem to work on resistance and resensitizing tumors that are resistant to endocrine therapies," he said.