March 27, 2014

Grant will study fat grafting in breast reconstruction

Dr. Abigail Cochran, a resident physician in the Department of Surgery, has received a two-year federal grant from the Plastic Surgery Foundation to study fat grafting in breast cancer. 

Cochran, the principal investigator for the project, is a fourth-year plastic surgery resident physician at the School of Medicine in Springfield.  The grant’s budget is $47,223. 

Fat grafting is an integral part of breast reconstruction in cancer patients, but there is concern about the cancer-stimulation potential of stem cells in fat. This research will look at stem cells in fat and provide a better understanding of their effects on tumor growth. It will also examine whether tumor growth can be decreased by using gene therapy with the fat grafting.  

The research uses human fat extracted during liposuction, which is taken to the lab and cultured with human breast cancer cells. Researchers will measure the tumor growth to determine how the fat affects the cancer cells. The fat also is genetically engineered with a virus that attacks cancer cells to decrease the tumor. Results of the study will help improve understanding of the risks associated with fat grafting for cancer patients. 

This is the third national grant awarded for Cochran’s research, which is focused on stem cell transplantation in breast cancer reconstruction. 

Cochran began her residency at SIU in 2010. She earned her medical degree from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and her bachelor’s degree from Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y.