New hope for women with
Talented young researcher, Dr Samantha Oakes and her colleagues from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Melbourne, have recently made an exciting discovery that offers hope for women with triple-negative breast cancer.
Triple-negative breast cancers are extremely difficult to treat. This aggressive subset of breast cancers, which accounts for up to 20% of diagnosed cases and affects mainly younger women, receives its name from the fact that tumours test negative for proteins: oestrogen, progesterone and HER2 receptors. This means that triple-negative breast cancers are unresponsive to currently available therapies that effectively target these proteins.
However, Dr Oakes and her colleagues have shown by treating breast cancers that have high levels of the protein BCL-2, with an anti-BCL-2 drug, could make these triple-negative breast cancers more vulnerable to conventional treatments.
BCL-2 proteins are elevated in up to 80% of breast cancers and can help protect cancer cells from damage by chemotherapy drugs. Anti-BCL-2 drugs are already being tested in the clinic for other types of cancer so Dr Oakes’ research may pave the way for combining these drugs with conventional chemotherapy treatments – potentially leading to a better chance of survival for women diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancers.
Dr Oakes was awarded the 2011 NBCF Patron’s Award for Science and Science Communication.
Image courtesy of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.