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Investigating drug resistance in triple-negative breast cancer patients

  • Researcher: Professor Jos Jonkers
  • Institution: The Netherlands Cancer Institute, Netherlands
  • Award Amount: £199,200 for 3 years from February 2014
  • Cancer Type: Breast Cancer
Investigating drug resistance in triple-negative breast cancer patients
The overall survival rates for breast cancer are the best they have ever been, with more than three-quarters of UK women surviving for ten years or more after diagnosis. However, there are several different types of breast cancer and for one, called triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), the survival rate is still not good. TNBC means the cancer cells do not possess the three common molecules on their cell surface, so TNBC patients cannot be treated with the drugs that are typically used for other breast cancer patients. A fraction of TNBC patients also have an inactive form of the molecule BRCA1 in the breast cancer cells, which causes problems but on the flip side, it does mean these cells can be killed by the drug olaparib. However, long-term treatment with olaparib leads to the cells becoming resistant, meaning they no longer die and the cancer can return. It is thought that a process called epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) may play a role in this resistance, and this is the focus of Professor Jonkers' Worldwide Cancer Research grant. By better understanding how this drug resistance occurs, Professor Jonkers hopes his findings could help researchers identify new ways to potentially treat TNBC in the future.
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