Scientists from Breast Cancer Now’s Research Unit at King’s College London in collaboration with the charity Tony Robins Research Centre at the Institute of Cancer Research have identified a molecule crucial to the growth of ‘triple-negative’ breast cancers that they believe could now be targeted by drugs to help treat patients resistant to chemotherapy.
Around 15% of all breast cancers are ‘triple-negative’ with around 7,500 women in the UK being diagnosed each year. More common among younger women, triple negative breast cancers can sometimes be more aggressive than other types of breast cancer and often have a poor prognosis and fewer treatment options: typically chemotherapy in addition to surgery and radiotherapy.
The study recognises the role of a molecule called PIM1 in driving and controlling these types of breast cancers. The finding provides some explanation as to why a significant group of ‘triple-negative’ breast cancers are very aggressive and resist the effects of chemotherapy.
Professor Andrew Tutt, Director of the Breast Cancer Now Toby Robins Research Centre at the Institute of Cancer Research and the Breast Cancer Now Research Unit at King’s College London, said: ‘It is early days but as PIM1-inhibitor drugs have already been discovered they may give us a new way to hit these cancer genes. The hope would be that these drugs could strip triple-negative breast cancers of their defences so that they can be pushed over the cliff by other breast cancer treatments.’
Image credit: Breast Cancer Cell by ALFRED PASIEKA/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY