The UNM Cancer Center received a grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico to support innovative breast cancer research that could lead to more effective treatments. The grant funds Eric Prossnitz's research, developing molecular probes that target a type of estrogen receptor – identified and characterized by Prossnitz and collaborators – that plays an important role in breast cancer. These probes show promise as the basis for targeted therapies for breast cancer, particularly those forms that resist existing chemotherapy treatments.

Breast cancer accounts for nearly one third of women's cancer cases in New Mexico. Each year, 1,100 New Mexican women are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and another 220 die from the disease. Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among Hispanic, Native American and African American women in the state, and second only to lung cancer among non-Hispanic white women.

Prossnitz co-leads the Women's Cancers Research Program at the UNM Cancer Center and is a professor of cell biology and physiology at UNM. He said, "Research is essential to better understanding the biology of breast cancer and improving treatment options for women with the disease. We are very pleased that BCBSNM has chosen to support important breast cancer research happening here in New Mexico."

"We strongly support translating scientific discovery into new and more effective treatments for breast cancer," said Liz Watrin, president, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico.

Prossnitz and colleagues hope to make therapies available to cancer patients in New Mexico through the rigorous clinical trial phase of research required of all new treatments. Melanie Royce, nationally known breast cancer specialist who directs the UNM Cancer Center's multidisciplinary breast cancer program, said that BCBSNM's support of Prossnitz's research will help accelerate progress in finding effective new ways to treat New Mexico's breast cancer patients.

"The UNM Cancer Center is committed to translating the work that goes on in our laboratories to our clinics and communities and back again for continued investigation," Royce said. "We are thrilled to receive BCBSNM's support for an extremely promising area of translational research at the center."

Media Contacts: Dorothy Hornbeck, JKPR, (505) 797-6673, or Audrey Manring, UNM Cancer Center, (505) 925-0486,