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UTHSC’s Liza Makowski Receives $100,000 Breast Cancer Research Grant From The Mary Kay Foundation


Liza Makowski, PhD, a professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology-Oncology and a research member of the Center for Cancer Research at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, is one of 10 recipients of $100,000 grants from The Mary Kay Foundation to continue her research into triple negative breast cancer.

Liza Makowski, PhD

The cancer research grants are awarded annually to top-accredited research institutions in the United States that are conducting innovative translational research to better understand cancers that affect women.

The Mary Kay Foundation has made it a priority to support research being conducted at top medical schools and research facilities across the country into cancers that affect women. Since 1996, The Mary Kay Foundation has donated more than $30 million to support innovative cancer research and clinical trials to find a cure for cancers affecting women, as well as for cancer program and services support.

Dr. Makowski said this grant will support research to uncover how reinvigorating the immune response may help in the fight against triple negative breast cancer. Triple negative breast cancer is the most-aggressive subtype of breast cancer with poor response to conventional therapies. In this project, Dr. Makowski and her graduate student, Mehdi Chaib, will explore a family of signaling proteins to reprogram the tumor’s immune landscape.

“I love to think about how cells communicate with other cells like neighbors in a neighborhood,” Dr. Makowski said. “For this study, we want to further understand how immune cells impact the response to cancer treatments. I am excited to receive this grant from The Mary Kay Foundation to study triple negative breast cancer, because it allows us to test the role of this unique pathway to tip the balance from an immunosuppressive to a potent anti-tumor immune response in order to overcome resistance to immunotherapy.”

“Each year, we are proud to award grants to applicants whose research we feel will lead to improvement in diagnosis, prognosis, prevention, or treatment of cancer. Their tremendous contributions to the cancer research field often lead to innovative breakthroughs with the hope of better patient outcomes in the long run,” said Michael Lunceford, president of The Mary Kay Foundation board of directors. “The foundation’s long-standing commitment to cancer research is deeply rooted in our founder’s legacy and lives on through our company’s mission to one day find a cure.”

Along with UTHSC, 2020 grant recipients come from research institutions including NYU Grossman School of Medicine, Columbia University Irving Medical Center, Stanford University School of Medicine, and others. For more information about The Mary Kay FoundationSM cancer grants in action please visit marykayfoundation.org.

About The Mary Kay Foundation

Guided by Mary Kay Ash’s dream to enrich the lives of women everywhere, The Mary Kay FoundationSM raises and distributes funds to invest in breakthrough cancer research to find a cure for women-related cancers and ending domestic violence against women. Since 1996, The Mary Kay FoundationSM has contributed more than $80 million to organizations aligned with its two-fold mission. In addition, the Foundation supports awareness initiatives, community outreach programs, and advocates for legislation to ensure women are healthy and safe.