Fighting Breast Cancer in Young Women
Did you know that women who begin their menstrual cycle at a younger age or hit menopause at an older age, are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer at some point in their life?
Your breast cancer researchers at the Basil Hetzel Institute for Translational Health Research (BHI) are working hard to understand what happens during a woman’s menstrual cycle to cause this risk, in order to prevent the disease from devastating more families in the future.
You may remember meeting Joe Wrin last year. Joe is in the second year of his PhD, investigating what changes occur in a woman’s breast during their menstrual cycle which may play a role in increasing their breast cancer risk.
“When a woman is undergoing their menstrual cycle, their breasts are essentially preparing themselves for pregnancy and so undergo many changes. When the cycle ends the breast then has to remodel back to what it was before. This process repeats every cycle a woman has,” Joe said.
“My project is investigating the role of particular white blood cells in the breast called macrophages that play an important role in returning the breast back to normal once a menstrual cycle has ended.
“The problem is when these macrophages appear in large numbers in the breast, they also release a particular protein that we have shown plays a significant role in promoting the growth of a breast cancer tumour and may also help it spread.
“My research is concerned with understanding how this process works and then finding a way to inhibit the action of this protein and as such reduce the role it plays in promoting breast cancer.”
If successful, Joe is hopeful this pivotal finding could be used to not only improve the effectiveness of current breast cancer treatments but also prove useful in preventing a breast tumour from growing.
“Since we know this protein promotes the growth of a breast cancer tumour, if we could intervene early to block its activity, this would help reduce the growth of the tumour and hopefully allow other blood cells to be more effective in killing the tumour,” Joe said.
“The other application for my research is a treatment that healthy women could take that will help the breast remodel to its normal state during a menstrual cycle without the increased risk of cancer developing. This would hopefully decrease the incidence of breast cancer in premenopausal women.”
With the bulk of his research yet to come, Joe is hopeful his work will play a pivotal role in the fight against breast cancer – hopefully seeing an end to the disease once and for all. Your support allows Joe to pursue his lifesaving research, we look forward to updating you on his findings towards the end of next year.