A Texas Tech chemist has received a hefty grant to study how breast cancer breaks into the brain.

Yehia Mechref, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, is the first at Texas Tech to receive a grant under the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas’s Individual Investigator Program.

Mechref received the $1.2 million grant to study how breast cancer may metastasize to the brain, and the research may reveal a key to early detection of breast cancer cells that may have the ability to invade the brain.

The project will study how certain sugar signatures on breast cancer cells might gain them entrance past the blood-brain barrier and allow them to metastasize in the brain.

“It’s like they have a matching key to another compound that allows the cancer cells to come through,” said Mechref. “This is our hypothesis. Our preliminary data suggests there is truth to this fact.”