Translation of cancer cells
biology to the clinic
Proteins known as co-activators can accelerate the estrogen-driven growth of breast cancer. Experiments in Dr Andrew Redfern’s laboratory have shown that these proteins strengthen the proliferative effects of oestrogen and can overcome the anti-cancer action of the prevention drug tamoxifen.
Oncologist and researcher, Dr Redfern, has subsequently confirmed this effect on patients being treated with tamoxifen. When a patient’s tumour had high levels of co-activator proteins, the chance of the cancer returning was double that seen in patients with low levels of these proteins. This could allow the selection of patients most likely to benefit from anti-oestrogen treatments in the near future.
Dr Redfern is working on a second protein group that act as poison detectors in cells. These proteins have the ability to sensitise cancer cells to a range of toxins, including chemotherapy drugs. Andrew has found that breast tumours, with high levels of these poison detectors, are four times more likely to return when preventative chemotherapies are used. Additionally, these tumours are twice as likely to shrink when chemotherapy is used in more advanced stages.
As well as selecting patients who will most benefit from chemotherapy in use today, Dr Redfern hopes to increase levels of these proteins in all patients, to improve chemotherapy outcomes in the future.
Funding from NBCF has allowed Dr Redfern to bridge the gap between laboratory and hospital research, creating the potential for this work to benefit breast cancer patients more rapidly.
Image courtesy of Capture Media