International Breast Cancer Grant Awarded to Researcher Kelly at UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute

By todd

LITTLE ROCK – A researcher at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) is among a highly selective group of scientists to receive a breast cancer research award from the U.S. Department of Defense.


Thomas Kelly, Ph.D., associate professor of pathology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), was awarded the department’s Synergistic Idea Award for his breast cancer research project focusing on the role of fibroblast activation protein-alpha (FAP) in breast cancer metastasis. Metastasis refers to the transference of cancerous cells from their original site to another location in the body.


Out of 134 proposals submitted for this award, Kelly’s project was one of only 14 selected for funding. The award includes a two-year grant of $361,203 and will operate as a collaborative effort between Kelly’s group at the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute and the research group led by Patrick McKee, M.D., at the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center in Oklahoma City.


“Metastasis is the most deadly feature of breast cancer,” Kelly said. “If our research is successful, it will help define the role that FAP plays in breast cancer growth and in its spread to other parts of the body. We hope that this knowledge can be used to advance preventive and therapeutic treatments for patients.”


The project will explore FAP’s role in promoting aggressive behavior of breast cancer cells. The scientists will test the theory that the protein known as FAP actually facilitates breast cancer growth and metastases by cleaving protein into fragments that may encourage the formation of blood vessels that nourish the expansion of cancer.


The research teams at UAMS and the University of Oklahoma will explore the possibility that FAP protects breast cancer cells that are traveling in the body by mediating the rapid coating of the tumor cells with fibrin, the blood protein that is a major component of blood clots. “The fibrin coating may help the tumor cells survive and escape to allow the spread of cancer in other parts of the body,” Kelly said.


UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, six centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has 2,538 students and 733 medical residents. Its centers of excellence include the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute and the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging. It is one of the state’s largest public employers with about 9,600 employees, including nearly 1,150 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $5 billion a year. Visit