Promising Research to Stop the Spread of Breast Cancer
Based at the Basil Hetzel Institute for Translational Health Research, PhD student Chris DiFelice is leading lifesaving research to develop a new therapy for breast cancer that has spread to the lungs.
We know that the survival rate of women that have metastatic breast cancer at first diagnosis is alarmingly low, with only one in four women still alive five years after diagnosis.
Determined to improve this statistic, Chris’ research is focused on the idea that scar tissue can help create an environment that promotes the spread of breast cancer cells around the body.
“Given the significant overlap in pathways associated with cancer and scar tissue development, I am researching the role of a group of enzymes that have been shown to play a role in these two diseases called peroxidases” Chris said.
“With the guidance of Professor Andreas Evdokiou, our team has been able to show that these enzymes can act on cells found in the scar tissue environment, called fibroblasts.
“From this we’ve been able to demonstrate that when we treat these lung fibroblasts with the peroxidases in the lab we can stimulate them to produce collagen, which is the major protein made during scar tissue development.”
This breakthrough has led to a collaboration with a global pharmaceutical company to develop a way to block the activity of peroxidases and in turn the spread of breast cancer to the lungs.
“We are hoping that by targeting peroxidase activity, we can block the development of scar tissue and potentially reduce the growth and spread of breast cancer in the lungs. If we are successful with this drug it could lead to an effective treatment for cancer.”
Not only will this treatment help breast cancer patients, it could also help other people suffering from any fibrotic diseases in major organs such as the lungs, heart and liver.
Breast cancer is a serious disease and I am hoping my research could lead to a treatment that will save lives and stop the heartbreak of breast cancer.
It is thanks to generous donor support that students like Chris can discover new treatments that if successful, can save the lives of many living with this heartbreaking disease.