Exciting New Research to Stop the Spread of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer survival rates are increasing each year with 96 per cent of Australian women diagnosed surviving longer than five years, however survival rates for breast cancer that has metastasised (spread) around the body is alarmingly lower at 40 per cent.
Based at the world-class Basil Hetzel Institute for Translational Health Research (BHI), PhD student Christopher (Chris) DeFelice’s research is aiming to develop a therapeutic treatment for breast cancer that has spread to the lungs – a new treatment for this type of breast cancer.
“We know that 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime and once it’s been identified, metastatic breast cancer of the lungs has a survival rate of less than five years,” Chris said.
Determined to improve this statistic, Chris established on an idea that scar tissue (called fibrosis) can create an environment that promotes the growth of breast cancer cells around the body.
“We know that the lungs are one of the areas that breast cancer spreads to and it becomes life-threatening for the patient. By identifying key molecules that are responsible for creating an environment that promotes breast cancer spread, we would be a step closer to ending the heartbreak caused by cancer that spreads,” Chris said.
“I am researching the role of a group of enzymes called peroxidases that are found in scar tissue. With the guidance from Professor Andreas Evdokiou, our team has been able to that these enzymes are involved with 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 enzymes, 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 inhibit peroxidases.
Using this newly developed inhibitor for the first time, Chris has been able to demonstrate that blocking peroxidase activity reduces collagen production by these cells which may be a vital outcome moving forward as it could play a role in stopping the spread of cancer.
“We are hoping that by targeting peroxidase activity, we can block the development of scar tissue and potentially reduce the growth of breast cancer cells 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 cancer patients, it could also help other people suffering from any fibrotic diseases in major organs such as the lungs, heart and liver.
“It is a serious disease and I am hoping my research could potentially lead to a treatment that will save lives and stop the heartbreak of breast cancer.”
It is thanks to your generous support that students like Chris are given the opportunity to research into treatments that if successful, can save the lives of many women living with this heartbreaking disease. We look forward to keeping you updated on Chris’ research.