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Research underway at Mater is looking into the behaviour of cancer cells in a bid to develop ways to stop triple negative breast cancer metastasising in patients.
A triple negative breast cancer diagnosis means that three receptors which promote breast cancer growth are not present in the tumour and therefore some therapies used to successfully treat other forms of breast cancer are not effective.
Breast cancer metastases are a dangerous development for patients, with metastasis to the brain associated with drastically reduced life expectancy. Currently, around 15 per cent of women with breast cancer are diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. Unlike other types of breast cancer, there is currently no treatment that specifically targets triple negative cancers. This means the treatments that patients can be given are broad based, and often have unpleasant side effects.
But Mater Research’s Professor Greg Monteith and his team are using a protein that glows when cancer cells ‘turn on’ a specific signal—this allows them to see changes in cancer cells as they move. It is their hope that by identifying which signals occur in cancer cells as they metastasise, such processes can be prevented, or slowed, through the use of current or new medications. This could both reduce the spread of breast cancer to other organs and improve breast cancer survival rates.
It is likely that the drugs developed to target the metastases of cancer would be used in conjunction with current therapies and be aimed at reducing the spread of breast cancer cells after a patient’s initial treatment.
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