Burnside and McMillan Receive UW2020 Round 2 Funding

Posted on October 2016

L-R: Amy Trentham-Dietz (Population Health Sciences), James Shull (Oncology), Elizabeth Burnside (Radiology), David Page (Biostatistics and Medical Informatics), John Hampton (UW Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center), and Irene Ong (Biostatistics and Medical Informatics)

Two projects involving UW Radiology are among the fourteen highly-innovative projects that have been chosen for a second round of funding by the University of Wisconsin–Madison Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education for the UW2020. Sponsored by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), the goal of UW2020 is to stimulate and support highly innovative and groundbreaking research at the University of Wisconsin–Madison over the next five years. This initiative seeks to fund research projects that have the potential to fundamentally transform a field of study.

Alan McMillan, PhD, Associate Scientist in the Departments of Radiology and Biomedical Engineering, is co-principal investigator on a project that has been awarded a Round 2 UW2020 grant for research on the neural processes that go into simple decision-making. The project, “Building a Next Generation, Whole Brain Imaging Platform Using Simultaneous PET, fMRI, Behavioral Pharmacology, and Mathematical Modeling of Decision Making,” combines positron emission tomography and MRI to map the relationship between neural activity, the dopamine system, and cognitive performance.

Dr. Elizabeth Burnside, Professor of Radiology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Chief of the Breast Imaging Section, and Vice Chair of Health Services at Outcomes, has received a 2-year, $500K grant for, “Translating Novel Breast Cancer Genetic Markers from the Bench to the Clinic,” in which she is the principal investigator. Dr. Burnside’s research has received $4.6 million in external funding since 2006.

Dr. Burnside’s study examines entire genomes of breast cancer patients along with identifying a growing list of individual parts of DNA sequences called single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs, that appear to predict the risk of developing breast cancer. But even as more SNPs are found, improvements in risk prediction have been modest. Her goal is to advance the precise targeting of breast cancer prevention and early detection by rapidly moving from the discovery of these genetic markers to their application in clinical settings. Furthermore, the study hopes to add to the markers’ predictive power by pairing SNP discoveries with more information on an observed physical difference, breast density, which captures the effects of both genes and the environment. This project creates a new collaborative, multidisciplinary team and uses data from the Wisconsin Women’s Health Study to translate basic research to the clinic, create better breast cancer data sets, and improve prediction models to stratify breast cancer risk—all with the hope of decreasing the burden of breast cancer in Wisconsin and beyond.