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ST. LOUIS – The number of deaths related to breast cancer is in decline. The upcoming Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk is a major boost in the effort to find a cure.

The American Cancer Society funds $6 million in research grants right here in St. Louis. One of those grants helped develop tumor-on-a-chip.

Priscilla Hwang, Ph.D., is a trained biomedical engineer and a postdoctoral research fellow at Washington University. Her combined interests offer life-saving hope for breast cancer patients.

“We’re looking at how we can investigate ways to prevent cancer metastasis,” said Dr. Hwang.

A clear, three chamber model becomes a very valuable tool in tracking how cancer spreads.

“We can mimic the native breast tumor tissue in a lab setting. And this is neat because we can watch in real time how tumor cells are migrating away from the primary site,” Hwang said.

That creates the opportunity for new drug therapies to treat the disease before a life is lost. Every form of breast cancer is different. Metastasis is one of the leading causes of death for breast cancer patients.

But many are watching the progress of various research projects according to April Dzubic, executive director of the American Cancer Society’s North Region.

“There is a lot of hope right now. And there’s hope because of projects like Dr. Hwang’s,” Dzubic said. “We have seen a 39 percent decline in breast cancer deaths in the last three decades.”

Improved treatment, early detection, and research are factors in that decline.

“Personalized medicine is the way of the future for sure. By using these model systems, we’re able to move one step closer to successful breast cancer treatment,” Hwang said.

The American Cancer Society is the largest funder of cancer research outside of the federal government. Over the past 10 years, generous individuals help the cause through involvement with the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk. That money funds innovative groundbreaking research.

“We are celebrating 10 years with our (walk). We are really hoping to hit our $2 million mark right here in St. Louis. That’s a lot of research funding for projects like Dr. Hwang’s,” Dzubic said.

The grant review process is rigorous. Dr. Hwang said she appreciates the grant program offered by the American Cancer Society.

“It took many rounds to get the money and now I’m super grateful and excited that I’m able to do the work that I want to do to help advance the field,” she said

Research symbolizes hope. Funds raised will expand that research. The 10th annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk is October 27 Lower MUNY lot in Forest Park.