June 12, 2019

Protein discovery gives hope to future breast cancer patients

Patients with a difficult to treat form of breast cancer may in the future have new treatment options open to them thanks to new Irish Cancer Society-funded research.

Irish-based scientists have identified a protein present in three-in-five patients with triple negative breast cancer.

This promising new discovery means that, by tailoring treatments to target patients who have this protein, more women in the future may survive this form of breast cancer.

More than 250 people are diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) each year. It is often aggressive and tends to be more common in younger women.

Unlike other forms of the disease, chemotherapy is the only drug treatment option currently available to women with TNBC.

One of the reasons researchers have been unable to find more targeted therapies for TNBC is because of a lack of knowledge of what makes these cells grow and behave so aggressively.

However, the protein found in this research – PDLIM2 – is also linked to the cells’ aggressive behaviour, potentially opening a new pathway for future treatments.

This research was carried out in the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, University College Cork, as part of BREAST-PREDICT, the Irish Cancer Society’s national collaborative breast cancer research centre.

The project was led by Prof Rosemary O’Connor and Dr Orla Cox, and involved input from researchers in Ireland, the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands.

This work was recently published in the leading journal Cancer Research. The next stage of this work will now involve examining more patient samples to help confirm their findings, with the hope that this work will aid the development of better treatments for women with TNBC.

Additional funding for this research came from Science Foundation Ireland and the EU FP 7 Marie Curie Industry-Academia Partnerships and Pathways programme “Biomarker IGF”.

Since it began in 2013, finding more precise treatments for breast cancer has been at the core of the work of BREAST-PREDICT. After a €7.5m investment made possible by donations to the Irish Cancer Society, the breast cancer research collaboration will close this year having made a major impact on breast cancer research.