Maine Medical Center in Portland is seen on March 13, 2020. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

The National Cancer Institute has awarded a grant of nearly $2 million to Maine Medical Center Research Institute to look into how fat cells cause tumor cells to resist current treatments.

The research focuses on the incurable blood cancer multiple myeloma but could apply to other types of cancers.

“By figuring out how tumor cells evade cancer drugs, we are discovering their vulnerabilities and engineering novels ways to target the cancer,” said researcher Michaela Reagan, a faculty scientist at the Maine Medical Center Research Institute.

Obesity is a well-known risk factor for multiple myeloma and other cancers.

Multiple myeloma is a cancer that causes blood cells to grow uncontrollably and crowd out other blood cells in the bone marrow, leading to low blood cell counts, deterioration of bone, infection and organ shut-down.

The cancer institute that awarded the grant is part of the National Institutes of Health.