Promising breast cancer research receives WGHI’s Catherine Peachey grant

Matthew Scarpelli (Purdue University photo)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Research to understand and quantify the effectiveness of a specific combination therapy against breast cancer has been singled out to receive the Purdue Women’s Global Health Institute’s 2024 Catherine Peachey Breast Cancer Research Program Award.

The project, led by Matthew Scarpelli, assistant professor of health sciences and affiliate of the Purdue Institute for Cancer Research, will examine the effectiveness of radiotherapy when combined with a new therapy targeting certain immune cells called tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs). The research involves using an FDA-approved iron nanoparticle to see if it can help reduce the TAMs, which help tumors grow. It’s hoped that this novel approach will make breast cancer cells more vulnerable to cancer-fighting radiotherapy.

Radiotherapy is a key treatment for breast cancer patients, but it doesn’t work well for everyone and can have negative side effects. Past studies have indicated that combining radiotherapy with therapies that target TAMs may make radiotherapy more effective. However, scientists don’t fully understand how these TAM-targeted combination therapies work, which poses a considerable challenge in advancing them toward clinical settings. Scarpelli’s work is aimed at explaining the mechanisms that make the combination treatment effective and why breast cancer has resistance to radiotherapy alone.

Titled “Improving Breast Cancer Radiotherapy by Theragnostic Targeting of Tumor-Supporting Macrophages,” the project will receive $15,000 from WGHI and the Catherine Peachey Fund. WGHI launched the program in partnership with the Peachey fund in 2021, built on their shared goals to promote advances in breast cancer research and treatment, and to support research that is best positioned for clinical implementation. The Catherine Peachey Fund was established in memory of Cathy Peachey, one of the founders of the Indiana Breast Cancer Coalition. This joint program provides annual research funding that includes a variety of disciplines addressing prevention, early detection and treatment of breast cancer. The next call for proposals will be posted at the WGHI website in December.

About WGHI

The Women’s Global Health Institute, a partner of the Purdue Institute of Inflammation, Immunology and Infectious Disease, serves as a nexus of interdisciplinary research to create partnerships, promote research and develop training opportunities to improve the health and quality of life for women through the prevention and early detection of disease.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a public research institution demonstrating excellence at scale. Ranked among top 10 public universities and with two colleges in the top four in the United States, Purdue discovers and disseminates knowledge with a quality and at a scale second to none. More than 105,000 students study at Purdue across modalities and locations, including nearly 50,000 in person on the West Lafayette campus. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue’s main campus has frozen tuition 13 years in a row. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap — including its first comprehensive urban campus in Indianapolis, the Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. School of Business, Purdue Computes and the One Health initiative — at

Writer/Media contact: Amy Raley,

Source: Luanne Bermel,