Last Better Than Ever Research Grant Goes to Drs. Chalasani, Gimber for Breast Cancer Imaging

UA Better Than Ever Program logoPavani Chalasani, MD, MPH, and Lana Gimber, MD, MPH, are winners of the 2017-18 Better Than Ever Research Grant for $30,000 from the University of Arizona Cancer Center.

Dr. Chalasani is an assistant professor in the UA Division of Hematology and Oncology who specializes in translational and clinical trials research related to breast cancer. Dr. Gimber is an assistant professor of musculoskeletal radiology in the UA Department of Medical Imaging.

Drs. Pavani Chalasani and Lana Gimber Drs. Pavani Chalasani and Lana Gimber

Their project—the final one to be funded in the 17-year history of the Better Than Ever Training Program—is entitled: “Evaluating the Role of Diffusion Tensor Imaging in Predicting Development of Chemotherapy Induced Peripheral Neuropathy (CIPN) in Patients with Breast Cancer.”

In a description of their work, they note that some chemotherapies cause nerve damage that induces peripheral neuropathy, which can be debilitating and affect a patient’s daily activities long after their cancer treatment is completed. Symptoms can be both sensory and motor like pain, numbness, weakness, cramps, balance issues or problems walking. Sometimes these symptoms can present early on during the course of chemotherapy and the treatment can be altered (such as reduced dosage or treatment stoppage). While this may stop symptoms and help a few patients, such interventions might not be helpful in others. It is critical to identify those at risk of developing peripheral neuropathy so that appropriate interventions can be taken early on and prevent onset of such long-lasting side effects. Currently, assessment of peripheral neuropathy relies on clinical examination and sometimes, electrophysiologic testing is used.      

Magnetic Resonance Neurography (MRN) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) are new techniques which are increasingly being used to evaluate peripheral nerves and assess peripheral neuropathy. These techniques rely heavily on certain imaging sequencing obtained by MRI. The investigators propose to further explore these novel imaging methods to see if they can help identify those at risk of developing CIPN.

In this study, they will enroll patients with breast cancer who will be treated with chemotherapy. Patients will undergo imaging of their legs and ankles before and after chemotherapy. We will investigate a possible relationship between these techniques and CIPN as a potential indicator to identify those at risk of developing neuropathy and as an aid in developing and evaluating preventive strategies in patients who need to undergo chemotherapy.

Dr. Chalasani also won BTE grants in 2015 and 2014 for other research projects.

The Better Than Ever training program, the brainchild of program founder and champion Heather Alberts, wife of recently retired UA Cancer Center director emeritus David Alberts, MD, was a fitness training and fundraising program designed to help make walking, running or biking a regular part life.

From its inception in 2000, the program raised funds to support both basic science research and investigator-initiated clinical trials with an emphasis on breast and gynecologic cancers under the umbrella of Women’s Cancers at the UA Cancer Center.

Dr. Setsuko Chambers“Sadly, the fundraising arm of the Better Than Ever program has come to an end and we released our final request for applications earlier this year. The focus of this year’s RFA was on correlative studies from ongoing or completed investigator-initiated clinical trials for women’s cancers,” said Setsuko K. Chamber, MD (right), chair of the BTE Scientific Review Committee, which selects recipients for these grants.

“This has been an extremely successful UA Cancer Center outreach effort and we are pleased that this year’s award brings the 17-year grant distribution total to just under $2 million. What an impressive end to this wonderful program!” she added.

“Bear Down, Beat Cancer Lectures: ‘Breast Cancer Research and Patient Care’” | Posted March 15, 2017
“UA Cancer Center Teams up With Tucson Jewish Community Center to Deliver Four-Part Cancer Education Series” | Posted Jan. 10, 2017
“Dept. of Medicine Puts Its Mark on Inaugural CDA Research Symposium” | Posted June 18, 2016
“Breast Cancer and Bleeding/Clotting Disorders” | Posted March 15, 2016
“UA Cancer Center among founding members of the Academic Breast Cancer Consortium” | Posted Oct. 10, 2014

Release Date: 
06/01/2017 - 4:00pm
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